Why Jelena Ostapenko's historic run to French Open final is no fluke

The Romanian's 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory sets a final clash with 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko and leaves Halep one victory from her first Grand Slam final and the WTA's No.1 ranking as well.

Halep has played back-to-back three set matches and seems to have gotten stronger in both of the final sets, which is a positive sign considering she has a long history of letting frustration takeover matches.

In her last appearance in a final at Roland Garros in 2014, Halep was beaten by Maria Sharapova but on Saturday she will be the favourite against her inexperienced opponent.

Now ranked 47th in the world, Ostapenko was able to get by the 11th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals, the 23rd-seeded Samantha Stosur, the unseeded Lesia Tsurenko, world number 40 Ekaterina Makarova and American Louisa Chirico in the opening round to reach the finals.

Ostapenko fell in the first round on her main draw debut here past year but is one win away from becoming the first player since Gustavo Kuerten in 1997 to win their maiden tour-level title at a Slam. Once she started to pick up steam, it was clear that playing uphill had taken its toll on Pliskova, and Halep took her final two games with relative ease. Ostapenko has a chance to win her first career grand slam title at just 20 years old.

A match of wildly fluctuating fortunes, with barely a service hold in sight, appeared to be slipping away from Ostapenko when she lost four games in a row to lose the second set against Bacsinszky, who was hoping to celebrate her 28th birthday by going one better than her semi-final run in 2015. This will be Halep's second French Open final.

Her average forehand speed exceeds men's No. 1 Andy Murray's and is only slight slower than 14-time grand slam victor Rafael Nadal's. After dropping the second set, Halep was steadier in the third and closed the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Mixed in with her scintillating winners, including forehands faster than anything men's world No.1 Andy Murray has managed in Paris so far, were 45 unforced errors.

Halep and Ostapenko will face each other in the women's final on Saturday.

Up 4-2, the Czech saved three break points and won it 6-3 to take the match to a decider. I love to play here, I love you guys, you're wonderful. I think it's a nice gift!

All told, Pliskova committed 55 unforced errors before Halep served out to win the match. And to put it into context, 50 winners is enough to win two full sets (and the first two points of a third).

The 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) Halep is a ball-chasing, defensive dynamo unafraid of lengthy exchanges who gets to almost everything off an opponent's racket and is careful when she swings.

- Ostapenko took the first set 7-6 (4).

With the number-one ranking and the prospect of a first Grand Slam title on the line, it was Halep who grasped the opportunity.

  • Julie Sanders