Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
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Bringing her fearless, go-for-broke brand of tennis to the French Open final, Jelena Ostapenko stunned Simon Halep to become the first unseeded player in the Open era to win the Roland Garros title, as well as Latvia's first ever Grand Slam champion.
Ostapenko came from a set and a break down to beat the pre-tournament favourite from Romania, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in Paris.
“I still cannot believe I am the Roland Garros champion and I’m only 20,” said the youngest winner of the French Open since Iva Majoli in 1997.
“I know Simona is a great player and she was playing great but I kept trying, stayed aggressive and I’m very happy things turned around for me. I have no words,” said Ostapenko, who produced 54 winners in her first Grand Slam final, compared to eight from Halep.
Virtually unknown outside tennis circles, the 2014 junior Wimbledon winner will move from No.47 to No.12 in the rankings on Monday.
“Let's keep working and let's believe,” Halep told the crowd on the Court Philippe Chatrier at the trophy ceremony.
The third-seeded Romanian had been trying to become the second Romanian woman to win a Grand Slam singles champion since her manager, Virginia Ruzici, in 1978. A win in Paris would also have handed her the top spot in women’s tennis.
“Birth of a Queen" was the headline of the daily Roland Garros paper on Saturday. With Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka all missing from the event, this year’s French Open title had been there for the taking, particularly after women’s top seed Angelique Kerber of Germany was knocked out in the first round and there were no more Grand Slam champions left in the draw by the quarter-final stage.
“There are two options when you get to a your first Grand Slam final,” Chris Evert had said a few days ago at Roland Garros. “You rise to the occasion, or you get scared.”
Ostapenko chose the former.
In fact, the Latvian started where she left off during her semi-final against the experienced Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, reeling off winners that had the crowd cheering their approval.
Just two minutes into her first Grand Slam final - and just her eighth Grand Slam event - the 20-year-old marched back to her seat after breaking the Romania’s serve with a blistering backhand.
But Ostapenko then got broken just as rapidly in the next game. With the crowd firmly on her side, Halep was the first player to hold serve, going up 2-1 as cheers of “Simona, Simona” rolled through a packed stadium.
Ostapenko, the first unseeded player in a French Open final in 34 years, broke for a 3-2 lead, only to drop her serve once more in the next game as she struggled to keep the ball inside the lines.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-4 down, Ostapenko stopped her service motion at 30-30 when a spectator shouted out from the stands. After missing her first serve, she handed Halep a set point as she dumped a forehand into the net on the second. Halep took the first set 6-4 after a high ball drew the error as Ostapenko shook her head.
After saving a break point in the opening game of the second set, Halep took a 3-0 lead as she started to absorb her opponent’s powerful shots better and mixed up the pace.
The writing appeared to be on the wall when Halep forged a couple of break opportunities to go 4-0 up, but she was hesitant, and the fearless Ostapenko took full advantage, turning it up a notch to clinch the next four games with a string of winners.
Serving for a 5-3 lead, Ostapenko played a nervous game to get broken on an unforced error. But after breaking Halep in the next game, Ostapenko didn’t waver, setting up her first set point with a monster forehand down the line before forcing a decider with another huge forehand, her 22nd winner of the set.
Just as in the second set, Halep took a 3-1 lead before Ostapenko fought back to 3-3. The Romanian was then broken in the seventh game when an Ostapenko backhand clipped the netcord and dropped dead.
With Halep serving to stay in the championship at 5-3 down, Ostapenko set up her first championship point with an angled backhand return and won the biggest match of her life with a backhand down the line - her 299th of the entire tournament.
Ostapenko has been the revelation of this year’s French Open. A feisty character who trained as a ballroom dancer before opting for tennis and wears her heart on her sleeve, she had struck an astonishing 245 winners to reach the final, including 50 in the semi-final. Halep had produced 118 to get to the final.
Ostapenko has made huge strides since she started working with former clay-court specialist Anabel Medina Garrigues a month ago. Although she had lost all three finals she appeared in before Paris, she more than rose to the occasion against Halep to win her first ever senior title.
“I don’t know what to say,” a stunned Medina told French television. Ostapenko’s mother, who was her first coach, wept from the stands.
“There are so many emotions,” Ostapenko’s mother said. “I always believed.”