Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Birthday girl Jelena Ostapenko to face Simona Halep in final

Birthday girl Jelena Ostapenko to face Simona Halep in final

Ostapenko will now try to win the first senior title of her career when she faces Simona Halep in the final tomorrow, after the Romanian beat Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

The Latvian powered her way to a 7-6 (7/4) 3-6 6-3 victory to become as the youngest player to reach a grand slam final since Caroline Wozniacki in NY eight years ago.

Third seed Halep stormed into the quarter-finals without dropping a set, but she faced match point against Elina Svitolina before pulling off a miraculous recovery from 3-6, 1-5 down to reach the last four.

Returning to the court as a 20-year-old, she has broken new ground today as the first unseeded player to reach the French Open final since Slovenia's Mimi Jausovec in 1983.

Remarkably, it was also the birthday of Ostapenko's opponent Timea Bacsinszky, who turned 28, but it was the world number 47 who came out on top 7-6 (7/4) 3-6 6-3.

Thirtieth seed Bacsinszky, who needed a bandage applied to her right thigh midway through the first set, looked the more likely victor at that point as she sought to celebrate her 28th birthday by surpassing her semi-final run of 2015.

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Ostapenko's forehand, which this fortnight has averaged three miles per hour faster than Andy Murray's, had helped her blast her way past Sam Stosur and Wozniacki in the previous two rounds. "The first match was a tough one (against Louisa Chirico) and I won it". I hope I can play better and win it.

"I really happy, I love to play here and I'm just happy the way I celebrate my birthday", Ostapenko grinned.

She consolidated for 4-1 in the next game. And she remains the only woman in the Open era to win Wimbledon playing two-fisted forehands and backhands.

Her average forehand speed exceeds men's No. 1 Andy Murray's and is only slight slower than 14-time grand slam victor Rafael Nadal's.

She will not be changing her style though for the final when she will take on former runner-up Simona Halep. I think more about the game, and I play smarter, in my opinion, and also physically. "We are trying to improve my game and I think it's working pretty well".

There will be even more at stake for Halep, who will claim the No. 1 ranking with a win in the championship match.

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Pliskova needed to beat Halep to overtake world number one Angelique Kerber, while Halep must win the title.

A rasping Pliskova forehand gave her a battling hold and she warmed to the task in the second set, causing Halep far more problems with brutal groundstrokes and a venomous serve as she broke for the first time to take a 4-2 lead.

"Bad luck. OK. It's a tough one", Bacsinszky said when she was informed of that margin, her eyes filling with tears.

Pliskova saved three set points but was powerless on the fourth as Halep wrapped up the opener after 45 minutes.

- Ostapenko took the first set 7-6 (4).

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