At just 20 years old, little was expected this tournament of world #47 Jelena Ostapenko, but the Latvian woman rose up to the occasion and stunned Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3, overcoming a rash of unforced errors, and some early nerves to defeat the much higher ranked, and more accomplished Romanian woman who was contesting her second career Grand Slam final. The Riga native, who has never won a WTA title, and prior to this tournament had never been beyond the third round of a slam, played like she had nothing to lose, aggressively forcing Halep to counter what at times were scintillating shots.
Her streaky ball striking resulted in a 53 to 54 winner to unforced error count (compared to Halep’s defensively minded 8/10 split), and despite a lower first serve percentage, Ostapenko was much better on her serve, conceding fewer break point chances, winning more return points, and getting the key breaks when it mattered in the match. From a break down in the third set, rather than fading away like most young guns would, Ostapenko stuck to her guns and reeled off a remarkable five straight games, as Halep was broken three times in a row to concede the match, a brutal way to lose the final as a favorite. Halep was also ahead in set 2 and couldn’t finish the job, broken at 4-4 to concede the set after an easy Ostapenko hold. Ostapenko’s lone disappointing set saw her get broken at the end of the first, but again resilience was the order of the day.
The victory thrusts Ostapenko into the limelight, and she’s now perhaps the brightest young star in tennis. More pressure will be on her in the tournaments ahead, but she has a real shot at being a top 10 contender and claiming her first WTA title of course. Her rise is one of the quickest that tennis has seen in recent years.
As for Halep, she’ll remain a serious slam contender, and with two finals under her belt, the assumption has to be that she’s going to win at least one slam in the near future.