Halep beats Pliskova to set up Ostapenko showdown

Ross Houston
June 16, 2017

Halep reached her second Roland Garros final with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 win over Pliskova, taking her to within touching distance of a first major title and the world No 1 spot.

Romanian third seed Halep, the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2014, was thankful still to be in the tournament after her remarkable recovery from a set and 5-1 down against Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.

Ostapenko has been creating history throughout the week, as she became the first Latvian to reach a Grand Slam semifinal on Tuesday when she bounced 11th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

But Halep played virtually error-free tennis the rest of the way to win 12 of the final 13 games against her increasingly flustered opponent.

It looked like the same might happen in the third set when Bacsinszky fought back from 3-1 to 3-3 but Ostapenko had learned her lesson and clinched victory with a forehand into the corner - her 50th victor. She picked up her level of play, sent the second set into a tiebreaker and won it, and then blasted through the third set to win the match 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-0.

Since then, she has displayed telling poise - and she needed it against Pliskova, who smote 45 winners to Halep's 14. "I think it s a nice gift", said Ostapenko, whose win was greeted by the crowd singing happy birthday.

In what was seen as the most open grand slam tournament in living memory, it is perhaps no surprise that a real outlier has come through to reach the 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.

The 20-year-old's forehand was the shot of the match, and she continued to pummel the ball into the corners even at the biggest moments.

Earlier, India's Rohan Bopanna and Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski saved two match points to claim their first Grand Slam title with victory in the mixed doubles final. Ostapenko's aggressive style will clash against Halep's formidable deep game, and the match may come down to who ends up blinking first and has to adapt their respective styles. I think more about the game, and I play smarter, in my opinion, and also physically.

"It is an fantastic feeling, I'm so happy".

Pliskova refused to go down without a fight and broke back to trail 4-3 with yet more strong hitting, but Halep was on a mission and regained her advantage courtesy of another stray forehand from the Czech before serving out the match.

Sir Andy Murray of Great Britain, the world number one, will meet Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka in a repeat of last year's semi-final in the other match.

Halep's defensive skills make her one of the top players on the red dirt - the slowest surface.

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