French Open: Jelena Ostapenko survives to reach first career Grand Slam final

In a thrilling French Open semifinal match, Jelena Ostapenko battled her way past Timea Bacsinszky as the Latvian became the first person from her country to progress to a Grand Slam final, despite being just 20 years of age. The youngster is now projected to rise into the Top 20 after the tournament, reaching a new career-high ranking.

French Open: Jelena Ostapenko survives to reach first career Grand Slam final
Jelena Ostapenko celebrates her historic victory | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe
Jelena Ostapenko
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Timea Bacsinszky

Jelena Ostapenko created history at the French Open as she battled past Timea Bacsinszky, who was also looking to progress to her first ever Grand Slam final, in the semifinals. The Latvian triumphed in three tough sets after 2 hours and 24 minutes of play and became the first person from her country to progress to a Grand Slam final.

With both players celebrating their birthdays today, it was a bittersweet ending as Bacsinszky was hindered by a knee injury but still played well enough to bring the inspired Ostapenko to a third set. The world number 47 hit a massive 50 winners throughout the match and is now projected to rise to the 18th spot in the rankings after her amazing run. She would be contesting for the first title of her young career at the age of 20, and the trophy would bring her to the 12th spot in the rankings and be on the verge of entering the Top 10.

Jelena Ostapenko applauds the crowd after the win | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Jelena Ostapenko applauds the crowd after the win | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Ostapenko steals the first set

Ostapenko won the coin toss and surprisingly elected to receive to start the match with. The conditions are much better as compared to their quarterfinal matches, which is something positive for the Grand Slam semi-final debutant as her offensive game would work well without the wind. In her second Roland Garros semifinal appearance in three years, Bacsinszky made the perfect start to the match as she managed to keep Ostapenko at bay with her well-placed serves, clinching the opening game.

A couple of backhand winners then put Bacsinszky up at 0-30 on the return, allowing her to be in a perfect position to get the first break of serve. Nevertheless, Ostapenko rattled off three straight points and earned a game point with a powerful forehand winner. However, the Swiss was able to get the first break point of the match as Ostapenko looked inconsistent in the early stages, and she eventually opened a 2-0 lead with an impressive drop shot on her second break point forcing an error from the Latvian, having the best start possible.

Jelena Ostapenko hits a powerful forehand | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Jelena Ostapenko hits a powerful forehand | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Slowly gaining the rhythm on her groundstrokes, Ostapenko looked to make an immediate reply by going 0-30 up in the next game, threatening to break straight back. Overwhelmed by the strong returns, Bacsinszky soon threw the advantage away as the scores remained on serve after a shaky start by both players. Unexpectedly, the former Top 10 player threatened to make a quick response as she earned a break point after displaying some impressive shot choices, but Ostapenko managed to fend it off with a strong backhand winner.

Two forehand errors from Bacsinszky proved to be costly as she wasted the break point and eventually gifted Ostapenko the service hold, and was struggling to dictate play in the match. Carving a tough hold of service, Bacsinszky had to save a break point before holding her serve, though, barely as Ostapenko made some basic errors at the crucial moments. The Swiss continued to be wasteful on her chances as she lost another two break points, allowing Ostapenko to escape from the brink and remain on serve.

Timea Bacsinszky hits a forehand, a shot that has been much of a burden to her in this match | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Timea Bacsinszky hits a forehand, a shot that has been much of a burden to her in this match | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Bacsinszky would rue the missed opportunities as the youngster continued to improve, breaking serve and taking the lead for the first time in the match as she placed herself in a good position to close out the first set. On the next changeover, Bacsinszky called for a worrying medical time-out for her right knee but had it taped up before progressing with the match. The lengthy break proved to be pivotal as it caused the momentum to be shifted to the Swiss, with Ostapenko throwing in countless errors to throw away the lead.

All of a sudden, Ostapenko found herself serving to stay in the set as Bacsinszky was moving better with the help of the tape, comfortably holding her serve to be just a game away from winning the first set. Bacsinszky edged closer to sealing the set as she went up 15-30 in Ostapenko’s service game, but the Latvian showed some nerves of steel to rattle off three consecutive points and level the scores once more.

Timea Bacsinszky receiving a medical time-out | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe
Timea Bacsinszky receiving a medical time-out | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe

Playing some incredible offensive tennis, the youngster managed to outhit the Swiss’ solid defense as she regained the lead at the last moment, and earned the golden opportunity to serve out the first set. Showing some big-stage nerves at the crucial moment, Ostapenko immediately lost her serve in the next game as Bacsinszky managed to extend the set into a tiebreak to decide the winner.

Attacking the vulnerable second serves of the Swiss, Ostapenko managed to jump out to a 5-3 lead as the first set looked to be within her reach. The Latvian then finally sealed the first set 7-6 after a marathon 63 minutes of play, with both players displaying some world-class tennis to produce a high-quality match.

Jelena Ostapenko celebrates winning a point | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Jelena Ostapenko celebrates winning a point | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Bacsinszky clinches four straight games to level the match

A couple of unforced errors from Ostapenko at the start of the second set helped Bacsinszky to get the perfect start as she claimed a service break in the opening game, looking to mount a comeback and send the match into a deciding set. Serving a double fault at deuce, the Swiss failed to consolidate the break as Ostapenko constantly came up with strong returns and moved the ailing Bacsinszky all around the court, breaking straight back to level the scores.

Within a blink of an eye, the Latvian easily had the first service hold of the second set to open up a 2-1 lead, playing some unbelievable tennis to do so. The whole match soon became completely controlled by Ostapenko as she started to fire winners at her own will, but also committing quite a few errors at the same time.

Timea Bacsinszky provided a tough fight throughout the match | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe
Timea Bacsinszky provided a tough fight throughout the match | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe

Bacsinszky’s forehand did not do much work for her and instead was a burden as Ostapenko constantly attacked that wing to earn some free points. Recovering from a 40-0 deficit at 3-3, the Swiss gave herself a golden opportunity to break serve as she saw herself tied at deuce in Ostapenko’s service game. After what seemed like an eternity, Bacsinszky finally got the hard-fought break of serve to regain the lead and seemed on course to level the match at one set all as Ostapenko started to misfire and gifted her higher-ranked opponent the breakthrough.

Unforced errors continued to prove costly for the Latvian as Bacsinszky survived a tough service game, consolidating the break to lead 5-3 in the second set and be just one game away from leveling the match. Ostapenko was still plagued by her impatience to close out the point which resulted in many costly errors, causing her to be visibly frustrated with herself. The frustration did not help as she served a double fault on set point, gifting Bacsinszky the second set 6-3 after losing the last four games of the set.

Timea Bacsinszky celebrates winning a hard-fought point | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Timea Bacsinszky celebrates winning a hard-fought point | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Ostapenko seals the ticket to the final

Ostapenko seemed to have found her best tennis once again as she made a firing start to the final set, breaking serve in the opening game to get the early lead. Nevertheless, Bacsinszky increased the amount of topspin on her defensive shots and forced Ostapenko to hit some errors, which eventually resulted in a second consecutive break of serve as the Swiss made an immediate fightback to return level.

However, Ostapenko unexpectedly regained the lead when Bacsinszky hit a costly backhand down-the-line error at 30-40 to gift the Latvian the break once more, with the winner of this match being further unpredictable at this moment. Prevailing in a lengthy service game, Ostapenko finally managed to consolidate the break as Bacsinszky was unable to convert her chances, edging the youngster closer to her first ever Grand Slam final appearance.

Jelena Ostapenko looks to win her first ever title on Saturday | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Jelena Ostapenko looks to win her first ever title on Saturday | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Saving a huge break point in the next game, Bacsinszky, who is also looking to progress to her first ever Grand Slam final, narrowly held her serve as she managed to lessen the deficit and keep herself in the match. Unbelievably, Bacsinszky broke straight back in the next game to level the scores out of nowhere, increasing her chances of triumphing once more.

However, Ostapenko regained the momentum and remained composed, playing some inspired tennis to get the fifth break of serve in the final set. She then easily consolidated the break to place herself just one game away from the win and looked determined to close it out. Serving to stay in the match, Bacsinszky was overpowered by the inspired Latvian as Ostapenko eventually broke serve for the second consecutive time to create history, becoming the first woman from her country to make a Grand Slam final.

Both players share a warm hug after the match. Coincidentally, they both celebrate their birthday today | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Both players share a warm hug after the match. Coincidentally, they both celebrate their birthdays today | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe