French Open Final – Jelena Ostapenko vs Simona Halep (2pm UK, 3pm CET, 9am EST)
The women’s French Open is finally down to 2 players after almost a fortnight of tennis. Simona Halep came into the tournament as the bookmakers favourite and has lived up that billing, even if there were a few bumps along the way. Meanwhile, her highly touted opponent Jelena Ostapenko came through a number of tough matches with veterans to get to this stage, days after her 20th birthday.
After making it through week 1 with wins against Louisa Chirico, Monica Puig and Lesia Tsurenko, things were raised a level for the Latvian in week 2. Round 4 saw her recover from a set down to beat Samantha Stosur, who has shown herself to be very handy on clay at times and won a title the week prior. She extended her record to 4-0 over Caroline Wozniacki, an impressive record given that young and sometimes ill-disciplined players struggle against her early on. Timea Bacsinszky has been a tough opponent to beat at the French Open in recent years and it was no different again in the semis, with Ostapenko winning in 3 once more.
Ostapenko’s serve has always been a liability and may find her in trouble against Halep on a great returning day but once the 20 year-old gets into rallies, some of her hitting can be a joy to behold. While it isn’t a true comparison due to the differing nature of the game between genders, it seems phenomenal that her winner count through 6 matches is over 100 higher than Rafael Nadal’s through 5 while the other 3 men’s semi finalists fail to get within 60 of her in the tournament to date. Her unforced error count will be far higher though and that’s where the match will be won and lost.
Meanwhile, Halep blitzed through the first 4 rounds without dropping a set before 2 tough matches to make it to the final. An astonishing comeback from 3-6 1-5 down against Elena Svitolina was backed up with a 3 set win over Karolina Pliskova in what was almost a battle for the world No.1 ranking. She can take it with the title here, a fair reward given her efforts over the past 3/4 years to transform into one of the elite players on tour. She attributes much of this to her improved defensive player. “I have improved a lot in this part. I always had this fighting thing, but now I control it better and I control it on the positive way, so all good,” she said. “I feel good on court, and I feel that my game was pretty strong today and all the tournament. I hope in the final it will be stronger. I need that.”
Fighting off the barrage from Ostapenko will be key to Halep’s success in the final. If she can frustrate her less experienced opponent then there is the possibility it could be very comfortable for her. “I have never played against her. I saw a little bit of her match today. In my opinion it is similar to what I had today. You never know with this kind of player. I have just to stay there for every ball. Every ball is important against them. So I will be there and ready to fight.” she said.
Prediction – Simona Halep in three sets