Sunday, 11 June 2017

Ostapenko ! - Who thought ?

20 year old Latvian Jelena Ostapenko is the 2017 Roland Garros Women's Singles Champion and what an amazingly unexpected exciting ride she took us on.

The achievement is outstanding on so many levels.  
- This is Jelena's first title and it is a major.
- She was unseeded, ranked 47, coming into the tournament. (Now she is #12)
- The first ever Grand Slam singles title to fly to Latvia has been captured by Ostapenko.
- Players beaten en route to this victory included Stosur, Wozniacki and Bacsinszky.
- Down 0-5 and then a set in both the Stosur and. Wozniacki matches.

To the final itself and Simona Halep had several things in mind strategically, but one single item was the key focus - run for everything and make no mistakes of your own.
Jelena had a completely different approach - attack everything, hit hard, errors will come but so will winners.

So the match was effectively on the younger players racquet.  If Ostapenko could shoot enough bullets accurately through the stout defence of Halep then the championship could be hers.

Set one was entertaining, and so gave us the entree to what was to be a delicious meal.
Ostapenko broke Halep to love in the opening game, throwing in two wicked backhand winners, immediately sounding a warning to those who thought this was a Halep walk in the park.
Halep shouted back with a message of her own, breaking back, and even belting a rare winner of her own.

The fifth game saw Ostapenko break the Halep serve again with ripping winners but the pattern continued - unforced errors and dropping the next game on serve due to nothing contributed by Halep, all self inflicted.

Games went to serve until when at 4-5 and 30-30 Ostapenko felt the nerves and her forehand fell apart.  Two poor shots and the set was in Romanian hands 6-4.

In set two game two Ostapenko saved two break points with forehand winners but the same forehand produced two shockers which gave Halep a 2-0 lead which stretched to 3-0 with a service hold.

A fourteen point game in which Ostapenko saved three break points was the turning point of the match.  Instead of 6-4 4-0 and a finish line so close for Halep, now Ostapenko had 1-3 and hope.

Hope morphed into more than that as the attacking Latvian began landing her huge shots as winners or forcing errors rather than missing the lines.
0-3 became 4-3 and set two suddenly awkward for the third seed.

The pressure was too much and in the ninth game Halep's forehand broke down and her serve was broken.
Ostapenko's forehand, however, lit up as she hit three winners off that wing to hold serve and take the set 6-4.

Although Halep steadied, and with the early break in the decider led 3-1, it was clear that her younger opponent had weapons at her disposal and could use these to overwhelm and break back as she had done many times already.

Jelena won the next five games, including breaking Simona to win the championship, sealed with a sizzling backhand winner, one of three in the final game.

4-6 6-4 6-3 with 54 winners and 54 unforced errors.  Simona hit 8 winners and only committed 10 unforced errors for the match.
It proves that safety first doesn't always bring rewards.

A few significant rankings movements, aside from Ostapenko moving into the top strata:

Simona Halep from 4 to 2
Caroline Wozniacki from 12 to 7
Caroline Garcia from 27 to 21
Timea Bacsinszky from 31 to 22

Garbine Muguruza from 5 to 15
Kiki Bertens from 18 to 27
Samantha Stosur from 22 to 34

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