Unseeded Ostapenko tops Halep at French Open for 1st title

Jelena Ostapenko soaks in her unexpected win
GONZALO FUENTES REUTERS Jelena Ostapenko soaks in her unexpected win

21 June, 2017

The 20-year-old is the youngest French Open victor since Iva Majoli in 1997 and the first player to win a debut tour-level title at a Slam since Gustavo Kuerten in Paris that same year. Ostapenko's beaming smile as she raised the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen was the only thing sunnier than her strokes all fortnight. Her opponent in the final, Halep, finished with a tally of 128. "I didn't really understand how to play on grass", Ostapenko said. "I think I'm different player, and I'm much stronger than 2014". It's my goal. But I'm just going to try to work hard now and try to reach the high ranking.

But Ostapenko then got broken just as rapidly in the next game.

But with a power-based game that elicits "oohs" and "aahs" from spectators, and a fearless attitude to match, Ostapenko could be one to watch for quite some time.

"I knew that Kuerten also won his first title here also in 1997 (the year she was born)".

It was not always like that.

"Tennis is not popular in our country because it's a kind of expensive sport", said Ostapenko, who will crack the top 20 after her breakout display in Paris. "I want to really hit the ball". It's like for soccer, made for soccer. I think I played okay.

She wanted to live the experience of playing for the first time a such important match. Before arriving in Paris, she had prize earnings of $1,288,260 for her whole career. "I was just trying to go for shots when I could and on match point". Halep had produced 118 to get to the final. She felt like it was quite okay for her to be where she was.

She made headlines past year because of a bust-up with British player Naomi Broady in Auckland. That's unbelievable. There's not so many players like that'. You can live-stream the action at Roland Garros through NBC Sports Live Extra in the USA or Eurosport Player in the UK. When I was a child I was watching.

Cancer survivors, families walk in Relay for Life event in Sparta
The ceremony is followed by the survivor lap, a lap for all cancer survivors and people now being affected by cancer. All the money raised goes towards the American Cancer Society to help in the fight against this disease.

Her daughter has taken her by surprise by winning a grand slam so early in her career, but she recalled how it was a triumph 10 years in the making.

Not for a 20-year-old who had never won a single championship at any event on the WTA Tour, never mind on the grand stage. The last time we saw that kind of courageous play was watching Roger Federer win five games in a row after being down in the fifth 3-1 at the Australian Open against Nadal.

Women's tennis has been crying out for a young player to not just make a breakthrough but build on it and become a great champion.

Rather than being fazed, Ostapenko was enjoying being front and centre at one of the biggest tournaments in tennis. I think nobody teached me.

Money will no longer be a problem for Ostapenko, her mother and father or half-brother Maksim, who lives in Los Angeles.

- Ostapenko came back from 0-3 down to break third seed Halep's serve three times and take the second set 6-4. Her coach, Darren Cahill, said it would have been a "nice bonus" but that this possibility did not add stress to her preparations.

'She has a lot to be proud of, ' said the Australian.

'Jelena won this match, Simona did not lose it. That also helped me.

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