Jelena Ostapenko to take French Open glory in her stride
- Author: Julie Sanders Jun 11, 2017,
Jun 11, 2017, 21:07
She is also the youngest French Open victor since Iva Majoli in 1997 at the age of 19, and the first player to win a debut Tour-level title at a Slam since Gustavo Kuerten in Paris that same year.
Her all-out attacking game ultimately got the better of the more steady Halep, who lost her second French Open final - she fell to Maria Sharapova, also in three sets, in 2014.
So much of her grinding, power and fast style reminds me of Monica Seles at her best. "I think if I have really good day, and I'm hitting really well, I think anything is possible", she said, with a smile.
The newly turned 20-year-old trailed by a set and 3-0 - she had to fend off three break points to avoid falling behind 4-0 - before rallying for a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory on Philippe Chatrier court.
"I'm looking forward to Wimbledon because grass is one of my favourite surfaces", she said. While Halep faded in the second and third sets, Ostapenko kept going strong, and eventually came out on top.
"I knew that Gustavo Kuerten also won his first title here also in 1997 (the same day she was born). It hurts a lot and I need time just to, I don't know, to go away".
"I didn't really understand how to play on grass and I was like, "How can people play on grass?"
"Nobody taught me. It's just the way I play". "There were a couple of games when everything went my way and I was ready to fight for every point". It's my goal. But I'm just going to try to work hard now and try to reach the high ranking. I'm only 20 years old.
With nothing expected of the unseeded player, Ostapenko was able to play loose, and it showed during her numerous comebacks. It was with icy composure that she negated the Ukrainian's lead to secure a place in the semi-final, where she played out another defiant match against the second seed Karolina Pliskova.
"I think I can still improve my serve, my forehand. I just enjoy it so much". "To all my family watching, my Mom is here watching, I wouldn't be here without you".
Next up on the Grand Slam circuit is Wimbledon where Ostapenko was junior champion in 2014. I have the mentality to win, but it's going to be tough.
"I knew she could hit that hard but I'm really surprised how she handled the two weeks", said the Spaniard. In time, she is likely to have her shot at Grand Slam glory and, perhaps, the No. 1 ranking.
Now that Ostapenko has one Slam under her belt, she is hungry for more. But Halep, 25, said she felt sick to her stomach in the previous 24 hours leading up to the final as she tried, in vain, to get the enormity of the occasion out of her mind.
Her confidence comes both from youth and the knowledge that, when she is on form, very few players can live with her.