Ostapenko white-knuck­les her way into fi­nal

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

BEST BIRTH­DAY EVER: Latvia’s Je­lena Ostapenko beat Switzer­land’s Timea Bac­sin­szky in their French Open semi-fi­nal yes­ter­day to se­cure her place in the fi­nal to­mor­row. PARIS: Rip­ping a scream­ing fore­hand straight through the tennis text­book, Lat­vian Je­lena Ostapenko blazed into the French Open fi­nal with a 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-3 win over Swiss Timea Bac­sin­szky in a bat­tle of the birth­day girls yes­ter­day.

On the day she turned 20 the free-swing­ing world No 47 launched a fusil­lade of 50 win­ners to be­come the first un­seeded player to reach the women’s sin­gles fi­nal at Roland Gar­ros since Mima Jausovec lost to Chris Evert in 1983.

But seven-time French Open cham­pion Evert, in Paris com­men­tat­ing for broad­caster Eurosport, would not have recog­nised the brand of tennis served up by Ostapenko.

Mixed in with her scin­til­lat­ing win­ners, in­clud­ing fore­hands faster than any­thing Andy Mur­ray has man­aged here so far, were 45 un­forced er­rors.

At times dur­ing a match of 16 ser­vice breaks the im­petu­os­ity of youth be­trayed her as she seemed on the verge of youth­ful tantrums in the hot Court Philippe Cha­trier sun­shine, es­pe­cially when she lost four games in a row to lose the sec­ond set.

Bac­sin­szky, the 30th seed, who needed a ban­dage ap­plied to her right thigh mid­way through the first set, looked the more likely win­ner at that point as she sought to cel­e­brate her 28th birth­day by sur­pass­ing her semi-fi­nal run of 2015.

Logic sug­gested the steady ap­proach she adopted af­ter los­ing the first-set tiebreak would get the job done for the ex­pe­ri­enced Swiss, not the white-knuckle roller­coaster tennis Ostapenko was play­ing.

But Ostapenko played fear­lessly in the de­cider and roared home from 3-3, swish­ing away a fore­hand to fin­ish an ab­sorb­ing con­test and be­come the first Lat­vian to reach a ma­jor fi­nal.

Should she win to­mor­row, against ei­ther fourth seed Si­mona Halep or third seed Karolina Pliskova, it would be her first ti­tle – em­u­lat­ing the feat of Brazil­ian great Gus­tavo Kuerten who also an­nounced him­self to the world by open­ing his ac­count at Roland Gar­ros in 1997.

“I’m re­ally happy, I love to be here,” Ostapenko said af­ter the crowd ser­e­naded her with a cho­rus of “Happy Birth­day”.

“It’s a great way to cel­e­brate my birth­day.

“I was al­ways play­ing ag­gres­sive and try­ing to hit the ball when I have the chance.” — Reuters

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