Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 20 JUNE
She started life as a ballroom dancer; now Jelena Ostapenko is two wins away from winning her first Grand Slam title.
The Latvian teenager became the surprise package of the French Open when she overpowered one of the game’s best defenders to move to her first Grand Slam semi-final.
Ostapenko, who won the girls' singles at Wimbledon in 2014, overcame two rain delays to beat former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 at Roland Garros just before 8pm local time in Paris after a day when heavy showers whipped through the city.
Ostapenko will play Timea Bacsinszky for a place in her first Grand Slam final after the 30th-seeded Swiss ended the title aspirations of France’s Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 6-4. Their semi-final will take place on Thursday, the same day as both of their birthdays.
“It was tough, because we had to go away two times,” said Ostapenko, who at 19 is the youngest player to move to the last four in Paris since Serbian Ana Ivanovic a decade ago.
“I had to stay aggressive, and I found my game,” said Ostapenko. “I’m really happy.”
Introduced to tennis at the age of 5 by her mother, Jelena Jakovleva, Ostapenko was a ballroom dancer for seven years before she opted for tennis. A hard flat-hitter, she has learnt to play on the red dirt since hiring former clay-court specialist Anabel Medina Garrigues as her coach.
Against Wozniacki, Ostapenko played with a maturity beyond her years. She didn’t panic when the experienced Dane took the first set after coping with the blustery conditions much better than Ostapenko, whose flat groundstrokes have little margin for error.
Having trailed 5-0 in the first set, Ostapenko rallied to 5-4 before losing the set 6-4. She responded by going up by an early break in the second set as the wind eased and was 5-2 ahead when play was halted for rain for more than three hours.
She then forced a decider before rain delayed play for another 20 minutes at 2-1 on serve in the final set. The sun came out as the players returned and with the warmer conditions, Ostapenko marched to victory.
“She's a big hitter,” said Wozniacki, who lost her third straight match to Ostapenko this season. “She doesn't go for the big targets. She goes for the lines. Going in, she's tough to read, you don't really feel comfortable. It's hard to read her shots.”
The weather was also very much a factor in the quarter-final between Bacsinszky and Mladenovic, with the wind notably altering the ball's trajectory.
Trailing by a set, Mladenovic led 3-1 in the second before Bacsinszky broke back and levelled for 3-3 before a second rain delay. Although it was only a 20 minute break, a lot of spectators left and when both players walked back out again, the main Court Philippe Chatrier was less than half full.
Unable to count on the same sort of raucous crowd support that spurred her on against Garbine Muguruza, Mladenovic couldn't raise her game to game to the required levels.
Bacsinszky held her nerve to move into her second Roland Garros semi-final when her opponent sent a forehand volley long.
“It was tough,” Bacsinszky told the crowd in French after her win. “Sometimes, your concentration suffers when it’s on-off, on-off. It’s a great victory, I stayed lucid and found a solution against one of the best players in the world,” she added.
“Timea is way better than me on that kind of today's conditions,” said Mladenovic, who made 27 unforced errors.
“The wind, of course, I couldn't serve my powerful serve. I'm a little bit more aggressive than her and couldn't really put this game plan on today,” said Mladenovic, who had been trying to become the first homegrown champion in 17 years.
Her loss leaves Caroline Garcia as the lone French player remaining the singles draw.
It was a frustrating day for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who were told at 6PM that their quarter-final matches against Pablo Carreno Busta and Dominic Thiem respectively would be delayed to Wednesday 11:00AM local time.
Bascinszky, 28, on sharing the same birthday with Ostapenko on June 8, which is when they will meet in the semi-final.
“We are sharing the same birthday. But lucky her, she's way younger than I am.”