Latvian tennis star Jelena Ostapenko advances to French Open finals with a birthday win

Shannon Scovel

 

Latvian star Jelena Ostapenko hits a forehand against Timea Bacsinszky during her semifinal match at the 2017 French Open. (Getty Images)

In a battle on their birthdays, Jelena Ostapenko and Timea Bacsinszky competed through three sets in the semifinals of the 2017 French Open before 20-year-old Ostapenko punched her ticket to her first Grand Slam final with the win.

Ostapenko and Bacsinszky, who turned 20 and 28 respectively on the day of the match, had previously played doubles together in China last year and knew each other well, but, in a one-on-one dual, the younger athlete prevailed.

Ostapenko, who hails from Latvia, is the first unseeded women’s tennis player to reach the final stage at Roland Garros since 1983 and the first Latvian to ever reach a Grand Slam final. She previously made headlines for being the youngest woman in the semifinals since 2007, at 20, she is the youngest player in the French Open final since the same year. 


“I love to play here, I love you guys, you’re amazing. I’m just happy with the way I celebrated my birthday,” Ostapenko said. “I was always playing aggressive and hitting the ball when I had a chance. It probably helps me to win today.”

Power and aggression defined as Ostapenko’s performance in the semifinal match, as her forehand shot was recorded at 76 mph, three miles per hour faster than the No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player in the tournament, Andy Murray.

 

Ostapenko finalized her victory over No. 30 Bacsinszky 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3 and will now face either Simona Halep or Karolina Pliskova next in her quest for a first Grand Slam title.