French Open 2017

Ostapenko recovers to take first title

Two days after her 20th birthday, Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko celebrates her shock 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Simona Halep to win the French Open yesterday.
Two days after her 20th birthday, Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko celebrates her shock 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Simona Halep to win the French Open yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

20-year-old unseeded player stuns third seed Halep to become Latvia's first Slam winner

PARIS • Latvia's world No. 47 Jelena Ostapenko shocked third seed Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 yesterday to win her maiden Grand Slam tennis title and become the lowest-ranked champion in French Open history.

The 20-year-old is the first unseeded player to lift the Roland Garros title in the Open era and become the first Latvian Grand Slam champion.

She is also the youngest French Open winner since Iva Majoli in 1997 at the age of 19, and the first player to win a debut Tour-level title at a Slam since Gustavo Kuerten in Paris that same year.

"I can't believe I am the French Open champion at just 20. It's amazing," said Ostapenko, who celebrated her birthday on Thursday.

"I knew about the history," the newly crowned champion added.

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

"There are no words. It's just amazing. It was my dream as a child to win Roland Garros."

  • 54

  • Jelena Ostapenko's winners, also the number of her unforced errors.

The victory in Paris will also see her world ranking rocket to No. 12 tomorrow, boosting her chances of qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore in October.

For the Romanian Halep, bidding to join compatriots Ilie Nastase and Virginia Ruzici as Grand Slam winners, it was a second final defeat in four years at Roland Garros.

The 25-year-old would have replaced Germany's Angelique Kerber as world No. 1 if she had won, but she was overpowered.

Ostapenko blasted 54 winners but also had 54 unforced errors, compared to Halep's mere eight winners and 10 unforced errors.

The Latvian looked down and out when Halep had points for a 4-0 lead in the second set but hit back with an audacious display of power to steamroller the Romanian.

Ostapenko then recovered from a break behind in the third set and finished the contest with a flashing backhand winner.

Halep's steady approach looked like taking her to a first Grand Slam title but she appeared drained at the end by the constant barrage coming from across the net.

"It's a tough day today because I couldn't win but let's work, let's keep working, let's believe," she said, before turning her attention to Ostapenko.

"Jelena, all the credit for what you have done. It's an amazing thing. Enjoy it, be happy and keep it going, because you're like a kid."

Ostapenko also hailed Halep following a warm embrace with the Romanian who looked devastated.

"I knew Simona was a great player. But I tried to play aggressive and everything turned my way. I fought for every point. I'm glad it finished my way," said Ostapenko, who finished the tournament with 299 winners.

"I'd like to say congratulations to Simona, you had a great week, you played great, I hope you have many more finals and you will win it," added the Latvian, who was a first-round loser in this tournament last year.

Kuerten made an appearance at Roland Garros this week and said he had arrived in Paris in 1997 with the goal of winning just one match.

Ostapenko certainly was not planning to go all the way, either.

"Of course," she said.

"I didn't expect that when I came here."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Ostapenko recovers to take first title'. Print Edition | Subscribe