With Rafael Nadal chasing an unprecedented 10th Roland Garros crown, and Stan Wawrinka looking to become the first Swiss to ever win multiple titles at the French Open, history is on the line in Paris on Sunday.
Here are the main talking points and key stats ahead of this blockbuster showdown.
It’s been three years since Nadal has won a Grand Slam title. Within that period, Wawrinka added two more to his tally – at the 2015 French Open and 2016 US Open. Nadal made his first final since the 2014 Roland Garros at the Australian Open last January, and walked away with the runner-up trophy to Roger Federer.
Since the start of 2014, each time Wawrinka has beaten a top-10 player at a Grand Slam, he has gone on to win the title in three of the four occasions this has happened. In 2014 Australian Open, he beat Djokovic (No2), Berdych (No7), then Nadal (No1) back-to-back to win the title. In the 2015 Australian Open, he beat Nishikori (No5) then lost to Djokovic (No1) in the semis. In the 2015 French Open, he beat Federer (No2) then Tsonga (No15) then Djokovic (No1) to win the title. In the 2016 US Open, he beat Nishikori (No7) then Djokovic (No1) to win the title. History shows that he can back up big wins at the majors.
This is not the first time Nadal has cruised to the final without dropping a set but it is the fewest games he’s ever dropped en route to the title match (29 games). Dominic Thiem was meant to be his biggest test of the fortnight – on paper – but the Austrian could not push Nadal to his limits. Some people think the Spaniard is lacking that one big test before the final but in Nadal’s case, the fact that he has spent five hours less on court compared to Wawrinka can only work to his advantage.
The Swiss certainly has the power and the tools, but it’s worth noting that he trails Nadal 1-6 on clay with the only win he has coming in Rome 2015 when Nadal was far from his best. Now that Nadal has recovered his brutal topspin forehand, Wawrinka might have a tough time countering it with his one-handed backhand.
1 – Wawrinka is bidding to become the first Swiss player – man or woman – in history to win Roland Garros on multiple occasions.
2 – If Nadal wins, he’ll rise to No2 in the rankings for the first time since October 2014.
2 – If Wawrinka wins, he’ll reach a career-high ranking of No2.
2 – This is the second Grand Slam final between the pair. Wawrinka won their only previous won in the 2014 Australian Open.
3 – wins for Nadal and 3 for Wawrinka in their last six meetings against each other, since the start of 2014.
3 – Nadal is the third man in history to make 10 appearances in the final at one Grand Slam event after Bill Tilden (10 US Open finals) and Federer (10 Wimbledon finals).
4 – Wawrinka is bidding to become the second man in the Open Era to win his first four Grand Slam finals after Roger Federer, who won his first seven.
5 – times in his career Nadal has made it to the Roland Garros final without dropping a set.
6 – wins for Nadal and one loss against Wawrinka on clay.
7 – Nadal has won seven of his last eight meetings against top-five opponents at the Slams.
10 – Nadal is trying to become the first player in the Open Era and just second in history to win the same Grand Slam 10 times (Margaret Court won 11 Australian Opens).
11 – Wawrinka is trying to post his 11th consecutive match win to extend his career-best winning streak.
15 – Nadal is gunning for a 15 Grand Slam title which would give him sole ownership of the second spot on the men’s all-time list, one clear of Pete Sampras and three behind Federer.
22 – This is Nadal’s 22nd Grand Slam final. He has a 14-7 win-loss record in title matches at the majors.
23 – Nadal leads the tour with 23 wins on clay this season against just one defeat.
26 – five-set wins and 20 losses for Wawrinka after his five-set win over Murray in the semi-finals.
29 – Nadal has dropped just 29 games en route to the final. It’s the second fewest games dropped into a Grand Slam final in the Open Era where the best-of-5 set format has been played.
30+ – Wawrinka and Nadal are the first pair of players aged 30 or over to contest a Roland Garros final since 1969, when 30-year-old Rod Laver defeated 34-year-old Ken Rosewall.
32 – At 32 years and 75 days old, Wawrinka is looking to become the first man in the Open Era to win multiple Roland Garros titles after turning 30.
42 – Nadal leads the tour with 42 wins this season against just six losses.
44 – years since someone as old as Wawrinka has reached the Roland Garros men’s singles final. The Swiss is the oldest French Open finalist since Niki Pilic in 1973.
Jelena Ostapenko became the first-ever Latvian to win a Grand Slam and the youngest woman to claim the Roland Garros singles title in 20 years after she defeated third-seeded Simona Halep in Paris on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Ostapenko, the youngest French Open women’s singles champion since Iva Majoli in 1997, overcame a 4-6, 0-3 deficit to beat Halep and capture the first title of her career.
She’s also the youngest Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova won the 2006 US Open, and the first unseeded women’s champion at Roland Garros since 1933.
“I think I cannot believe I’m the Roland Garros champion and I’m only 20 years old. It’s just so amazing to be here,” said Ostapenko in her on-court interview with Marion Bartoli.
Halep missed out on a chance to win her first major and ascend to the No1 ranking for the first time.
It was a break-fest from the start with four of the first six games all going against serve.
The pair finally held and despite pressure from Ostapenko, Halep claimed a crucial game to inch ahead 5-4. Typical ‘SI-MO-NA’ chants naturally followed.
Serving to stay in the set, Ostapenko dazzled with an inside-out forehand winner for 15-15. But Halep upped the ante and drew the error from her Latvian opponent to take the opening set in 37 minutes.
Halep saved a break point in her opening service game of the second then broke on her way to a 3-0 lead. Ostapenko was still painting the lines and firing powerful shots but Halep was able to neutralise her, winning the points that matter the most and was generally untroubled.
Ostapenko was not giving up and she broke Halep in the fifth game to cut her deficit to 2-3.
The young power-player sent a backhand wide the next game to face two break points but hung on and managed to draw level for 3-all. Ostapenko approached the net and found the swing volley that had done so well for her throughout the fortnight as she broke the Halep serve in game seven.
The Latvian’s advantage did not last as Halep broke right back for 4-4.
Halep’s serve let her down and once again, Ostapenko inched forward to put herself in the position to serve for the set.
And indeed she succeeded, leveling the match on her second set point with her 36th winner of the contest to force a decider against Halep.
Halep steadied the ship and broke for a 3-1 gap in the final set but Ostapenko once again pegged her back, pulling off impossible shots like this one.
The 20-year-old got help from the net cord to win her third game in a row to break and she consolidated for a 5-3 lead. And Ostapenko pulled off the comeback of a lifetime, hitting her 54th winner of the match to seal her historic victory in one hour and 59 minutes, denying Halep a first major and the No1 ranking.
“Bonjour everyone, I’d like to start with the crowd, thanks for coming to all the matches this tournament. I’m sad I couldn’t win it but it was a great tournament and a good experience and I really thank you for always coming and supporting me,” said Halep.
“I want to congratulate Jelena, all the credit for what you’re done this tournament, it’s an amazing thing. Enjoy it, you deserve it.
Addressing her team, she added: “It’s a tough day because we didn’t win. But let’s keep working and let’s believe.”
Ahead of the Roland Garros women’s final between third-seeded Simona Halep and world No47 Jelena Ostapenko, we take a look at the main talking points and key stats.
Halep acknowledged in her press conference that she is “playing for two things” – a maiden Grand Slam trophy and the world No1 ranking. She does not sound daunted by either prospect but will no doubt feel the pressure when she steps on Court Philippe Chatrier on Saturday. Her previous experience in the 2014 final will help her though.
A quick look at Halep’s record against other big-hitters on the tour will show that the Romanian is 5-1 head-to-head against Madison Keys, who like Ostapenko can put some serious RPM on her forehand, and is also 5-1 against Karolina Pliskova, who leads the tour each year in number of aces and has brutal groundstrokes.
Halep can often be mistaken for being a Radwanska or a Wozniacki but she is in fact more aggressive than both and can handle the power-hitters. It’s worth remembering that she beat Serena Williams at the WTA Finals in Singapore in 2014 and has pushed the American to three sets on other occasions.
Halep dominated this clay season, winning Madrid, reaching the final in Rome and now the title match at Roland Garros. Her winning in Paris and rising to No1 at the same time can only bring some stability to the women’s tour. She isn’t coming out of nowhere, she’s been a top-10 player consistently for over three years, and has reached the quarter-finals or better in eight of her last 14 Slams. Her game translates to all surfaces and she has made great progress in solidifying her mental strength.
In one way, it could cement this prevalent notion that somehow the women’s game is in a state of “limbo” in the absence of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and until recently Maria Sharapova (a view I personally don’t agree with). Ostapenko had never won a match at Roland Garros prior to this fortnight, clay is not her best surface, and she hadn’t had any breakthroughs at the majors, unless you count her third round in Melbourne last January. On the other hand, she’s the youngest finalist at a Slam in eight years and if she wins, she would be officially ushering in a new generation at a time where the 30+ club has been so dominant.
Halep must be aggressive on serve because Ostapenko has shown she goes for it from the very first shot and has already hit a stunning 42 return winners this fortnight. Ostapenko’s second serve is attackable and someone who is as good as a returner as Halep can cause the Latvian lots of trouble. Halep will try to move Ostapenko around while the 20-year-old will try keep points short.
1 – Ostapenko is the first Latvian to reach a Grand Slam final and would be her nation’s first ever major champion if she wins on Saturday.
5 – Ostapenko is the fifth unseeded player to reach the Roland Garros final in the Open Era and the first since Mima Jausovec finished runner-up to Chris Evert in 1983.
20 – years since someone as young as Ostapenko (she is 20 years old and 3 days) won the French Open women’s singles title. She is attempting to become the youngest Roland Garros champion since Iva Majoli (19 years, 300 days) lifted the trophy in 1997, and the youngest Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova (19 years, 77 days) at 2006 US Open.
39 – years since a Romanian woman won a Grand Slam. Halep is bidding to become just the second Romanian woman to win a major and first since her manager Virginia Ruzici won the French Open in 1978.