Big-hit­ting Ostapenko doesn’t worry Halep

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

SI­MONA HALEP has the French Open ti­tle in her grasp and will “not let it go” now, ac­cord­ing to clay­court great Chris Evert.

The 25-year-old who ar­rived as world num­ber four but can top the WTA rank­ings if she beats un­seeded Je­lena Ostapenko in to­day’s show­piece, was the pick of seven- time cham­pion Evert be­fore the tour­na­ment and noth­ing has al­tered her view.

“I don’t think Halep is go­ing to let go of the ti­tle now,” Evert, adding her vast Roland Gar­ros knowl­edge to broad­caster Eurosport’s cov­er­age, told Reuters.

“She has come through ad­ver­sity. She nearly didn’t play be­cause of in­jury, she was a set and two breaks down in the quar­ter-fi­nals. She’s not go­ing to let this go,” said Evert.

“She is not play­ing against a Ser­ena, or a player she has lost to. She is not go­ing to lose this ti­tle. This is her best chance ever to win a grand slam and she’ll find a way.”

Halep, who could be­come only the sec­ond Ro­ma­nian woman to win a grand slam af­ter Vir­ginia Ruzici, now her man­ager, ruled on the Parisian clay in 1978, has in­deed done things the hard way af­ter a straight­for­ward first week.

She was as good as out when she trailed by a set and 5-1 against fifth seed Elina Svi­tolina, be­fore grind­ing her way back from the brink, then soaked up some sear­ing power in a three-set de­feat of sec­ond seed Karolina Pliskova in the semis.

Halep ad­mits that might not have been pos­si­ble un­til a change of mind­set af­ter a brief split with coach Dar­ren Cahill, who ques­tioned her de­sire af­ter a de­feat in Mi­ami.

“He told me many words, but it’s tough to ex­plain,” said Halep, who was beaten by Maria Shara­pova in the 2014 fi­nal.

“He told me that I have to play ev­ery point be­cause ev­ery point it’s im­por­tant at this level. Un­til he told me, I thought I did not give up in matches. But I did a few times and in the most im­por­tant mo­ments,” she said.

“If you give up, you don’t have that chance any­more.

“The break (with Cahill) was def­i­nitely very good. It woke me up a lit­tle bit and made me re­alise that I have to change some­thing to be in this po­si­tion.

“Af­ter that I’ve won so many matches on the clay.”

Halep reached the semi­fi­nals in Stuttgart, won the ti­tle in Madrid and reached the Rome fi­nal where she in­jured her an­kle in a three-set de­feat by Svi­tolina.

Should she win to­day, she will be the first player since Jus­tine Henin in 2005 to take a sin­gles’ ti­tle at Roland Gar­ros af­ter sav­ing a match point.

The un­seeded Ostapenko will doubt­less try and blast Halep off bal­ance with her re­lent­less at­tack­ing game, but the Ro­ma­nian is ready for what­ever the Lat­vian throws her way.

“She’s hit­ting very strong balls. But I will fo­cus more on my­self. I’m not fo­cus­ing on her too much,” Halep said.

“It’s go­ing to be a big match, tough match. I know that. She can play her best ten­nis. She has noth­ing to lose but I’m ready.” – Reuters

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