French Open 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko: Anything is possible

At 20 years and two days old, Ostapenko is the youngest first-time grand slam champion since Svetlana Kuznetsova at the US Open in 2004.

Meet Jelena Ostapenko, a 20-year-old player who had yet to win a WTA level tournament of any kind until her Roland Garros triumph.

"Before the match, 5-10 minutes, I was a little bit nervous", said Ostapenko, the first Latvian to win a major. But when Halep led by a set and 3-0 in the second, with three chances to go up 4-0, she became unnerved, perhaps thinking about what it would feel like to lift the trophy. Here are the takeaways fro.

She added: "It's a tough day today because I couldn't win but let's work, let's keep working, let's believe".

At one point, after losing the first set, Ostapenko was losing 3-0 second, and she made a comeback, which is going to be one fantastic story for the future generations of tennis players. I like, for example, to go to attraction parks and ride insane roller-coasters - to do sky jumps, things like that, because I like scary things.

"I knew that Gustavo Kuerten won his first Roland Garros the day I was born, I have no words". Also missing was two-time major champ Victoria Azarenka, while No. 1 Angelique Kerber lost in the first round.

Fear just does not seem to come into her vocabulary and the way she plays - the all-or-nothing style, going for broke, no matter what the situation - has such simplicity that it means there is no reason she can't repeat it next time she finds herself in this position.

Ostapenko, whose main interest used to be ballroom dancing before the thrill of whacking the felt off tennis balls became more satisfying, struck 54 winners against Halep, one of the game's greatest retrievers.

Ostapenko has more pedigree on grass than clay having won the Wimbledon junior title three years ago and rates the surface as her favourite. "I think she's playing probably similar to my style, so she was my idol". The tournament has always caused an upset to top seeds every now and then both in Men's and Women's championships since it is played in the hard court.

"To play the final, it's an incredible thing".

Though Ostapenko would have plenty of wobbles and misfires in the big-hitting games to come, she never once gave the impression that she was out of her element. Through the seven rounds of the tournament, she hit an incredible 299 winners with youthful abandon. I'm really, really happy. By then her winners were finding their lines and a 6-4 second set went in Ostapenko's name. Even in moments when she appeared dead to rights, like after the first set, she kept plugging along, eating back into the lead Halep built.

She is the first Latvian to reach a Slam final, going one step further than Ernests Gulbis in 2014 - when a young Ostapenko was in his players' box as he beat Roger Federer in the quarter-finals in Paris.

- Ostapenko made 23 unforced errors in the first set. So that's what she told me.

But with a power-based game that elicits "oohs" and "aahs" from spectators, and a fearless attitude to match, Ostapenko could be one to watch for quite some time. "It's unusual.' But then in the next couple of years, I understood how to play there, how to move there, and then I really liked it".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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