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.”