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Out-of-nowhere Ostapenko to face Halep for French Open title

09 June 2017

Jelena Ostapenko described reaching the French Open final as "a nice gift" after beating Timea Bacsinszky in the battle of the birthday girls on Thursday. Ostapenko, an unseeded player, took down No. 30 Timea Bacsinszky in her semifinal matchup, winning, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3.

The 2014 runner-up, who saved a match point in the previous round, will become world number one if she defeats Jelena Ostapenko, the daredevil Latvian who blazed her way to Saturday's final. And to put it into context, 50 winners is enough to win two full sets (and the first two points of a third).

"I hope this time I can play better", Halep said, "and I can win it".

With her back to the wall, Pliskova upped her game and she broke back to trail 4-3 with a nice forehand crosscourt victor, only for Halep to steal her serve in the following game, when the Czech made a dog's dinner of a routine forehand. "She was braver. She had more courage".

For all her tactical skills, Bacsinszky could not contain Ostapenko, who hit the lines on multiple occasions in an aggressive style reminiscent of Monica Seles.

Halep just has to be more consistent with her serve in order for easier matches to take place.

She is also the first Latvian player to reach a grand slam final.

It was clear from the start that Ostapenko was going to be the aggressor and she edged a first set in which she hit 21 winners. But Halep responded with a break of her own while Pliskova had a chance to tie the match while serving, and then finished out the match by holding serve in the final game.

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The Czech made 24 errors in losing the first set, but finally edged ahead at 4-2 in the second. She had gone more than 1½ years without winning a title at any level.

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

But on the other side of the net will be Ostapenko, who's playing the best tennis of her young career.

Both women are chasing maiden major crowns but if Halep fulfils tournament favouritism, she will become the third player to win a grand slam and reach world No 1 under Cahill's tutelage.

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On Thursday, she will face No. 2 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, a 7-6 (3), 6-4 victor over No. 28 Carolina Garcia of France. It was her 50th victor of the match, which also saw her make 45 errors.

"I mean, when I came here", Ostapenko said, her words spilling out with nary a pause in between, "of course I didn't expect I would be in the final".

Serena Williams, the 23-times major champion, is pregnant, double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is just back after being stabbed, five-times major champion Maria Sharapova has only recently returned from a doping ban and former world number one Victoria Azarenka has been out after having a baby.