Jelena Ostapenko, the 20 year old tennis player from Latvia is going to cherish her fortnight in Paris for a long time to come.
Going to the French Open, she had never won a WTA title.
Ostapenko, who is currently ranked 47 on the WTA rankings, played her first match at this year’s tournament on Court 6 against Louisa Chirico of America. She defeated the American in three sets.
On route to the final, she defeated Samantha Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki and Timea Bacsinszky, all seeded players.
Her opponent in today’s final was none other than the 3rd seed, Simona Halep of Romania. Halep, the 2014 finalist in Paris, had a lucky escape against Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals, followed by a tough match against the 2nd seed, Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals.
Even though Ostapenko and Halep have different playing styles, there are certain strong similarities – boundless energy, an ability to run down every ball they face and both are very hard hitters of the ball. With a lot at stake, nerves would be a determining factor – first time Grand Slam final for Ostapenko and first Grand Slam title and the prospect of the No. 1 ranking for Halep.
During today’s final, which lasted 1 hour and 59 minutes, the ladies thrilled the crowd with some magnificent tennis.
Ostapenko, who has clearly practiced and mastered her line shots, blasted backhand and forehand winners past Halep with ease. Ostapenko, who converses with her team when she loses a point, does not give anything away to her opponent during the game though, as it is very difficult to guess her next move. She played every shot with absolute power, which saw both her winners and unforced errors equal 54 a piece by the end of the match.
Despite this being their first meeting, Halep and her team had done their homework as she managed to prevent Ostapenko from coming to the net, where is she extremely dangerous. Halep was more consistent with getting her first serves in, as her opponent battled in this area.
When Halep won the first set and took an early lead in the second set, it seemed as though her experience would see her through in two sets, but Ostapenko, who was not going to go down without a fight, just clawed her way back to force the decider. In the third set, Halep had a 3-1 lead, but again, despite the big stage and some errors, Ostapenko refused to back down, held her nerve to get the crucial breaks and went on to win the match, 4-6 6-4 6-3.
During the presentation, Halep earned her stripes, by delivering a very heartfelt and classy speech, which included “I’m sad I couldn’t win it. It was a great tournament.” She congratulated her opponent on a great tournament and wished her well going forward. She thanked her team and added “Let’s keep working and let’s believe.”
Ostapenko has a very bright future ahead of her, but for now, she and her team will just savour this very special moment, along with her well deserved winner’s cheque of €2.1 millon.