Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko had quite the day, and quite the last two weeks. The unseeded world No. 47 has booked a spot in the French Open final with a three-set win over Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland—oh, and she turned 20 years old today. Led by the on-court presenter, the crowd serenaded her with a rendition of “Joyeux Anniversaire.”
In the final Ostapenko will face world No. 4 Simona Halep, who beat Karolina Pliskova in three sets in the second semifinal. So far, Halep’s ankle, injured before the start of the tournament, hasn’t been a problem; she rolled her first four opponents without dropping a set and clawed her way back from a huge deficit in the the quarterfinal to beat Elina Svitolina. Especially since reuniting with her coach, who quit in March because of her negative attitude on the court, Halep, who’s never won a major, has been considered a favorite to snap that drought here.
But on the other side of the net will be Ostapenko, who’s playing the best tennis of her young career. Though she’s never won a WTA singles title and had never made it past the third round at a major before this French Open, she seems unfazed by the big stage. On match point today, she absolutely hit Bacsinszky off the court:
At Roland Garros, Ostapenko has dispatched world No. 12 Caroline Wozniacki and world No. 22 Sam Stosur, as well as Lesia Tsurenko, Monica Puig and Louisa Chirico. Her leaded forehand is her biggest weapon but she hits winner from all over the court, all the time. For perspective, she hit 245 winners in her last six matches, which is more than Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal, or Dominic Thiem:
The women’s side of the French Open was wide open from the very beginning with the absence of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and the shakiness of the world’s top players, like world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who was ousted in the first round. Things have shaped up well for Halep, but the title was always ripe for the picking by an ambitious underdog. Ostapenko might just be the one to pull it off.