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Ostapenko claims French Open title

13 Juin 2017

JELENA Ostapenko has completed an extraordinary grand slam fairytale, upstaging Simona Halep to win the French Open.

Unseeded Jelena Ostapenko rallied after dropping the first set and going down 0-3 in the second to shock No. 3 seed Simona Halep on Saturday to capture the French Open women's championship for her first Grand Slam title. Ostapenko's beaming smile as she raised the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen was the only thing sunnier than her strokes all fortnight.

The opening set was still up for grabs and at 5-4, the Latvian serving to stay in the set, two unforced errors awarded Halep the chance to take the first lead in the final.

Yet for much of the contest, hanging into rallies by her fingernails, it seemed Halep's steady approach would see her become only the second Romanian woman to win a grand slam title after her manager Virginia Ruzici's 1978 Roland Garros win. But if she keeps playing like this, with no fear, then who's to say she can't win there, too? If she plays good, it's very hard that somebody can beat her.

A simple equation was widely expected to decide the final - the Ostapenko winners to unforced error tallies would tell the tale. "I need some time to go away", she said. She's the first competitor - man or woman - to win make the French her first career title since Gustavo Kuerten accomplished that feat in 1997, the day Ostapenko was born. She stormed to the last five games, officially winning her first grand slam title by crushing a backhand return victor down the line. "Not before that. I was just taking it step by step".

If Ostapenko, who is a former junior Wimbledon title, can maintain this kind of form, then she may just take some stopping when she gets to the All England Club in three weeks' time. But she held herself in check at Roland Garros. "I would be surprised if she came out and hit winners all over the court like she has been".

A fortunate net cord gave her the crucial break of serve at 3-3, prompting Halep's coach Darren Cahill to look to the sky in disbelief, but the Latvian was on a roll. And No. 1-ranked Angelique Kerber is in a serious slump, including a first-round exit at the French Open.

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Jelena Ostapenko, who is world number 47 before the Roland Garros victory, is now the lowest-ranked champion.

Plus, one must marvel at her tenacity and ability to come from behind.

A telling statistic: Of the 33 points Halep won in the first set, only one - yes, just one! - came via a victor off her racket.

With victories here over Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig, US Open victor Sam Stosur, former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Timea Bacsinszky and Halep, Ostapenko is no fluker. But none of that matter as the Latvian power-hitter overwhelmed one opponent after the other with her monster groundstrokes and carefree attitude.

"I'm really happy, but I still have to improve some things and to get better as player", she said. The last woman to win her first title at a major was Barbara Jordan at the 1979 Australian Open.

Ostapenko's carefree attacking tennis ultimately proved too strong for the consistency and experience of Halep, with the favourite helpless by the closing stages.

On Saturday, when she might have shown signs of nerves in the biggest match of her life, Ostapenko began with three huge winners in the first game and ended with a backhand return victor rifled down the line before Halep had moved.

Ostapenko claims French Open title