Unseeded Jelena Ostapenko wins French Open final against Simona Halep

Doug Mendoza
June 11, 2017

Born on June 8 1997, the very day when Kuerten first became acquainted with French tennis, Ostapenko's initial and inadvertent brush with tennis seemed to have been concretely acknowledged with her emulating Kuerten's feat by winning her maiden title at the tournament, against Simona Halep on Saturday. "When I first played on grass I didn't like it, I really didn't understand it", she told a small group of reporters following her shock Paris win as she recalled playing on grass at Roehampton in England as a 15-year-old.

It was her first career title as she became the lowest-ranked victor in Paris, taking the trophy in just her eighth major appearance.

As The New York Times reports, Saturday's win makes Ostapenko the first unseeded woman to win the French Open since 1933.

"She only has one game, either I can't touch it or it flies one metre out". "I have the mentality to win, but it's going to be tough", said Halep, who lost to Maria Sharapova in three sets in the 2014 French Open final.

Halep, a 25-year-old from Romania, was playing in her second major final.

Ostapenko had blasted her way into the final on the back of 245 winners - more than any other player in the draw, man or woman. Ostapenko never wavered, using bold strokes and an unbending will to come back and stun Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 for an unlikely championship at Roland Garros. This was the classic contrast of styles, with Halep a superb mover and defender, but ultimately aggression won out. "I stayed there, I was fighting, but I think she was better than me".

Fittingly she thumped a backhand victor past Halep to seal victory, before tossing her distinctive green headband into the crowd with a look of disbelief.

But the early years in tennis weren't easy for Ostapenko as her family scrambled around for the money to finance her daughter's career.

A set and three games down, Jelena Ostapenko looked like she would lose in her first grand slam final.

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"I'm just going to try to work hard now and try to reach the high ranking". "A couple of games, everything turned my way. There will be attention when I go home because I have made history for my country".

She was down 4-6, 0-3 against Halep in the final, and again down 1-3 in the decider, but came back to take the trophy.

Yet Ostapenko had resolve.

The incredibly powerful hitting that had been a staple of Ostapenko's run to the final was evident from the very first game.

Ostapenko showed right away she would not be bashful in, by far, the biggest match of her nascent career, breaking Halep at love in the opening game by bashing the ball, drawing loud, appreciative gasps of "ooh!" and "aah!" from spectators.

Next up on the Grand Slam circuit is Wimbledon where Ostapenko was junior champion in 2014.

"I knew that Kuerten also won his first title here also in 1997 (the year she was born)".

If he wins, Nadal will become only the second player, man or woman, to win 10 titles at the same major tournament.

She pursued ballroom dancing and contested the Latvian national championships before deciding to concentrate on tennis. Also missing from the tournament was two-time major champ Victoria Azarenka (slated to return soon after having a baby), while current No. 1 Angelique Kerber lost in the first round in Paris.

Other reports by GizPress

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