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History made in Paris

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Originally published on 08/06/17 00:00

It could be a women’s tournament full of firsts…

Birthday girl Jelena Ostapenko will be the first ever Latvian to contest a Grand Slam final after she defeated Timea Bacsinszky 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3.

The just-turned-20-year-old has never won a Tour singles title – the last player to win a debut title at the French Open was Gustavo Kuerten on June 8, 1997 – the day Ostapenko was born.

In the second semi-final, Simona Halep beat Karolina Pliskova 6-4 3-6 6-3. Halep is now one match away from her first Grand Slam title and becoming the new WTA world No.1. She will face Ostapenko in the final on Saturday.

 

Happy birthday to five tennis legends

It was a particularly special day for Timea Bacsinszky and Jelena Ostapenko. Not only did the pair share a court as they faced each other in the first of the women’s semi-finals on Philippe-Chatrier, but they also shared a birthday – Bacsinszky turned 28 and Ostapenko, 20.

 

The chances of two players in a semi-final with the same birthday are very slight, but even more surprising is that the Swiss and Latvian also share their birthdays with three other female tennis champions.

Kim Clijsters, Nadia Petrova and Lindsay Davenport also celebrated on Thursday as they turn 34, 35 and 41 respectively. 

Clijsters was twice runner-up at Roland Garros, in 2001 and 2003. However, the former world No.1 did win 41 WTA singles titles and four Grand Slam singles titles including three at the US Open and one at the Australian Open.

When Russia’s Petrova made it to the semi-finals of Roland Garros in 2003 and 2005, she was at the top of her game and went on to reach a career-high ranking of world No.3 in May 2006. Focusing on her doubles career, in 2012, Petrova and her partner Maria Kirilenko won bronze at the London Olympics.

Davenport is one of five women who have been the year-end world No.1 on at least four occasions – the others are Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Martina Mavratilova and Serena Williams. Although champion of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open, the American never managed to make it past the last four at the French Open, but she did win the doubles in Paris in 1996.

 

Kelloggs not on-board with Kokkinakis

The Australian player, Thanasi Kokkinakis, having been plagued by injuries over the past two years, made his Grand Slam return at this year’s Roland Garros.

However, recovering from shoulder surgery was the last of the 21-year-old’s worries after being beaten in the first round by Kei Nishikori 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-4.

On returning to Australia, Kokkinakis found out that the cereal company Kellogg’s was taking legal action to stop the player from using his nickname, Special K, commercially.

Kelloggs has owned the Special K trademark for 59 years in Australia but Kokkinakis wants to use the brand on clothing and other merchandise.

Apparently the Kokkinakis Company has now applied to register Special K as a trademark in a similar style to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have all made multimillion dollar businesses from merchandise using their names.  

 

French federation not impressed

The French men's players took some frank criticism when French tennis federation president Bernard Giudicelli expressed his disappointment in their performances.

"What the French men lacked to go further, it's grit," Giudicelli said on live French radio RMC.

Referring to Lucas Pouille, who lost to Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the third round 6-2 3-6 5-7 6-2 6-1, the president implied he lacked the strength to go further.

He said: "When a coach says that the player can spend eight hours on court when the temperature is 45 degrees Celsius and that he gets cramps in the fourth set, there's a problem.

"Enough talking. We need to work according to the norms of modern tennis. It means having physical abilities very early and also work on the mental."

No French man went past the fourth round in this year’s tournament and no French man has won the title since Yannick Noah lifted the Roland Garros trophy in 1983.

Mats Wilander, a commentator for Eurosport in Paris, agreed that the French men have underperformed.

"If you look at those guys, Tsonga, Gasquet, Monfils…look at their rankings…for no-one to get to the quarter-finals is really quite disappointing,” he said. "You would have expected them to have maybe won a Grand Slam by now."

 

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