Ostapenko beats Halep to claim Roland Garros crown
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Jelena Ostapenko twice came back from the brink against Simona Halep to claim her first trophy on the senior tour - the women’s singles title at the French Open. The 20-year old Latvian trailed by a set and was down 3-0 in the second when she stepped up to serve to get herself on the board.
She was soon down 15-40 and facing oblivion. But she fought back to hold serve and make it 3-1. The advantage was still with Halep. But the third seed dropped her serve and gave Ostapenko the chance to level the set at 3-3.
The invitation was accepted. Ostapenko broke again to lead 4-3 but was pegged back at 4-4. Halep failed to hold her serve and Ostapenko wrapped up the set with a forehand winner.
The deciding set will replay through both of their minds for a lifetime. Halep got the early break to lead 3-1. But Ostapenko maintained her policy of hitting hard or harder.
The tactic brought her back to 3-3. She got the break for 4-3 when a backhand howitzer that was heading into the tramlines clipped the net, rose into the air, then bounced on Halep’s side.
The Romanian, who watched her fate unfold from the baseline, did not recover. Ostapenko held to lead 5-3 and she picked off Halep’s next service to take the set 6-3.
The end was a backhand service return winner down the line. So are legends made. “I was in the final playing such a great player as Simona. And I was losing 6-4, 3-0 and then I told myself I'm just going to enjoy the match, and I will try to fight until the last point. I stayed aggressive and the match turned my way."
The final set five game streak of power hitting was strewn with errors. Halep, who lost the 2014 final to Maria Sharapova, often appeared a spectator in her own gala. She was rarely able to dictate points and spent long parts of the two hour final trying to distribute the ball to parts of the court that the coaches and text books say will inconvenience an adversary.
Ostapenko though refused to entertain the norms of geometry and restriction. “Nobody taught me to play like that,” she said. “I always had the ability to hit the ball really hard. So that's why, probably, I hit the ball hard. And if I have a chance to go for a shot, I'll try.”
Halep had the opportunity to rise to world number one if she had won. She conceded the twin peaks had left her unruffled in the prelude to the showdown. “I was a little emotional. But I think everyone has it and it's good. I want to have many more moments like that if it's possible. That's why I work 20 years and played 20 years to have these moment.”
From emerging under the radar, the new queen of the Paris clay will be a target at the next Grand Slam tournament on the lush lawns of Wimbledon which starts on 3 July in London. And Ostapenko has form at SW19, she won the junior title there in 2014.
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