Ostapenko stuns Halep to win French Open
Originally published on 10/06/17 00:00
The 20-year-old, who is the youngest Roland Garros winner since Iva Majoli in 1997, is the first Latvian to win a Grand Slam title. It was an historic triumph for the unseeded player and she was overjoyed to lift the iconic Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen.
Ostapenko appeared to be on the brink of defeat as she trailed Halep by a set and and a break, but she showed tremendous resolve to blast her way back into contention and eventually break the spirit of her opponent.
It was the 54th winner of the afternoon from the relentless 20-year-old that sealed her career-defining victory and she reveled in her achievement. “I am really happy, I have no words, it was my dream,” said the 46th female player to win a major title.
"I knew that Simona is a great player. She was playing great. I was just trying to stay aggressive and in a couple of games, everything turned my way. I was 3-0 down but I was fighting for every point. I still cannot believe it, I used to watch this event as a child.”
The first set was played at a frantic pace as Ostapenko made a blistering start in the blazing Paris sunshine. She grabbed an immediate break however she soon struggled to keep the unforced-errors to a minimum.
There were flashes of brilliance from the Latvian in the opening set, but too many mistakes proved costly. With just one winner to her name, Halep moved halfway towards victory.
It had been 16 years since the loser of the first set in the women’s final had found a way to win the match. It looked certain that the trend would continue when Halep moved 3-0 ahead at the start of the next, but the duel was far from over.
With an opportunity to move a double-break ahead and get one hand on the trophy, Halep played tentatively and Ostapenko was able to wriggle free and cling on to her serve.
This proved to be the turning point in the match as the Latvian, buoyed by the support of the locals, began thumping winners from all areas of the court. Halep may be the best defender in the game, but she had no answer to the attacking arsenal of the youngster.
The third set was filled with tightly-contested games but Ostapenko found another gear once again. She upped the speed on her forehand and powered her way into the history books.
While there was joy for Ostapenko, there was devastation for Halep. “I am sick in the stomach with emotions but hopefully I can win this one in the future,” remarked the 25-year-old.
“I want to congratulate Jelena. All the credit for what you have done. Enjoy it, be happy and keep it going because you’re like a kid. I am upset I couldn’t win, but it was a great tournament."
It remains to be seen if Halep will ever find a way to capture an elusive Grand Slam title, but this was a glorious opportunity missed.