Simona Halep and Jelena Ostapenko will meet in French Open final with a first Grand Slam title on the line.
Third seed Halep, who lost to Maria Sharapova in the 2014 final, began this year’s tournament as the favourite. Victory on Saturday would see the 25-year-old Romanian replace Angelique Kerber as world number one.
Latvian Ostapenko, who turned 20 on Thursday, is ranked 47th and has yet to win a title of any kind. She has ensured a top-20 place with her run to the final and made history as the first Grand Slam finalist from Latvia.
This year’s tournament saw a quarter-final line-up without any former Grand Slam champions for the first time since 1977.
“Of course, this match is really important, and I will not hide the heaviness that it has. Of course it’s going to be a great thing if I can win. But I would like not to think too much, because it puts more pressure on me.” Halep said.
Halep has been widely viewed as the player with the experience and form to clinch a title; seen as there for the taking in the absence of Serena Williams. The American is awaiting the birth of her first child this year; while former major winners Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova also missing.
When defending champion Garbine Muguruza, top seed Angelique Kerber; and clay-court contenders Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sam Stosur lost before the quarter-finals, it left the draw wide open.
Halep was on the brink of defeat against Elina Svitolina when she trailed by a set and 5-1; and then held off a fightback from second seed Karolina Pliskova in the semis.
A professional for 11 years, with 15 WTA titles to her name and on the brink of the number one ranking; Halep now has her best chance to land one of the sports four biggest titles.
Ostapenko’s run in the French Open
Ostapenko has burst out of the pack of potential future stars to become a possible Grand Slam champion in the space of two weeks of brilliant hitting. Three years after winning junior Wimbledon and joining the senior tour, the Latvian is on the verge of a remarkable triumph in the French Open.
“Of course I didn’t expect that when I came here,” said Ostapenko. “But every match I was playing better and better.”
Her all-out attacking game has thrilled the Paris crowd and seen off the likes of Sam Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki and, over three sets in the semi-final, Timea Bacsinszky. She has hit more winners at 245 then any other player in the tournament, man or woman, albeit with a sizeable 217 unforced errors.
“It’s like I cannot play the whole match, like, amazing,” she said. “Sometimes it’s up and down, but I still try to fight and play my game. And if I do that, I will get back my game and then it can help me to win.”