Roland Garros: In with the new, on with the old?

Jelena Ostapenko became Latvia’s first ever Grand Slam singles tennis champion on Saturday when she defeated Simona Halep in three sets in the final at Roland Garros.

As she had been doing all tournament in Paris, Ostapenko defied the odds, coming back from a set and 3-0 down to stun favourite Halep with a fearless display of hard hitting that saw the Romanian fail at the final hurdle once again – she also lost in the 2014 final to Maria Sharapova.

As well as becoming the first player from the Baltic state to win a Grand Slam singles title, the win meant Ostapenko was the first unseeded female player to triumph at Roland Garros since England’s Margaret Scriven back in 1933 when the tournament was called the French Championships.

Not bad for a player whose previous claim to fame was an epic row at the 2016 ASB Classic in Auckland after she threw her racquet and hit a ball boy during a match with Britain’s Naomi Broady.

With that episode now well in the past, the question for the 20-year old is whether she can use her surprise win – it was her first ATP victory – as a stepping stone into the top ranks of the women’s game and stay there – not an easy task.

While one young player was making a name for herself on the world stage, a more experienced campaigner will be hoping to make his mark on the game for all eternity as Rafael Nadal heads into his final on Sunday in search of his record 10th Roland Garros men’s singles title.

The Spaniard has been in imperious form throughout the two weeks in Paris, and swept aside his most serious challenger in the semi-final with an easy straight sets win over Dominic Thiem.

His opponent and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka has largely gone under the radar on his way to the final, and he certainly has the game to upset Nadal on his day, but with the King of Clay so dominant it would be a major upset if Wawrinka were to claim his fourth Grand Slam title.

A win for Nadal would be his 15th Grand Slam title and move him into second place overall behind Roger Federer (18).

That said, he is fully aware of the threat posed by Wawrinka’s huge hitting.

“It’s true that when he hits hard, he hits really hard. Stopping him can be difficult,” said Nadal.

“I know he’s dangerous when he plays aggressively, so I need to limit his possibilities.

“I will play very aggressively, and I don’t want him to take control – easy to say, but it may not be that easy to do.”

Wawrinka, meanwhile, knows the enormity of the task he faces.

“I think to play Rafa on clay in the French Open in a final is probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis,” said Wawrinka.



“He’s the best player ever on clay.

“When you play Rafa in the French Open, you’re never the favourite.

“If you lose, it’s almost normal. But of course you don’t want to lose a Grand Slam final, do you?

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