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.