Fearless Ostapenko scores first French Open title, Nadal caps historic tenth

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Fearless Ostapenko scores first French Open title, Nadal caps historic tenth

Rafael Nadal has capped a golden clay court season, claiming his 10th Roland Garros title and creating history by becoming the first player in the Open Era to win 10 times at the same Grand Slam. Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko posted one of the most unexpected title runs in many years by fearlessly blasting her way through the women’s draw to earn her first ever tournament title on the biggest of stages...

The final between Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka was a one-sided affair, with the Swiss barely getting a look-in thanks to the relentless display from the King of Clay. Outclassed in every department, from aces, to serving percentages, more winners, less errors, Nadal dominated the match from start to finish, even managing to win more points from the net and securing a 6-2 6-3 6-1 victory.

Nadal’s running forehand down-the-line winner at 4-1 up in the second set encapsulated his day in one shot - his game was spot on and he could do no wrong. On the other hand, Wawrinka’s, out-of-sorts mid-court backhand volley which dribbled its way to the net, summed up his match. Out-gunned, out-foxed and out-hit, Wawrinka had no answers to Nadal’s exhibition of pace, power, precision, placement.

Nadal has once again played himself into the record books, claiming his fifteenth Grand Slam singles title and tenth Roland Garros crown, after having also claimed his tenth titles in Barcelona and Monte Carlo earlier this year. The champion did not concede a single set during his title run, rises to #2 in the rankings and is a strong bet to make it back to the top spot during the summer.

Elsewhere, Novak Djokovic seems to slowly be coming out of his lull, with a quarterfinal appearance, going down to in-form Dominic Thiem of Austria. Andy Murray also found some form and has bettered some of his performances of late, reaching the semi-finals. Pablo Carreño Busta made his first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal, but retired from his match against Nadal in the second set due to injury.

In the women’s final, Simona Halep carried the main weight of expectation, but started magnificently, taking the first set and a 3-0 lead in the second. A combination of conservative, counter-punching play by Halep as well as a go-for-broke revival by Ostapenko brought about an enormous shift in the dynamic of the match. With absolutely nothing to lose the Latvian started going for more and more, and the hapless Halep was relegated to the position of hitting partner. A slightly mis-timed crosscourt backhand winner set up one match point for Ostapenko on Halep’s serve. One was all she needed, as another punishing backhand, this a time down the line, gave Ostapenko her 54th winner and first ever tournament title for a 4-6 6-4 6-3 win. An amazing match that serves as a testament to fearless shot making when seemingly down and out and leaves Ostapenko as a national hero; Latvia's first ever Grand Slam singles champion.

The early exit of out-of-form Angelique Kerber, left the number one spot up for grabs and opened up her section of the draw nicely for other players to make their mark. With Karolina Pliskova falling in the semis and Halep failing to secure the title, Kerber clings on to the top spot for at least a short while longer.

Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams were highly tipped to make an impact based on recent form, but were halted by Caroline Wozniacki and Timea Bacsinszky respectively in the Round of 16. Local favourite Kristina Mladenovic saw off defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza in the fourth round, thus opening up the top half of the draw completely. With that, there were no former Grand Slam champions left at the quarterfinal stage.

The bottom half of the draw saw more seeds go deep in the tournament. Halep defeated clay court expert Suarez Navarro and then came back from match point down to defeat in-form Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, who had just beaten her in the Rome final. With that comeback win, it seemed as if the stars were aligning for Halep, and that she would be lifting the trophy that Maria Sharapova had denied her in the 2014 final. Ostapenko, for her part, had displayed fearless tennis by doing away with Olympic Champion Monica Puig, former finalist Samantha Stosur and former number one Wozniacki on her way to the final.

DOUBLES

American men’s doubles perhaps has new names to carry on the Bryan brothers’ torch. There were two finalists from the US, albeit on opposing teams. Ryan Harrison teamed up with Michael Venus of New Zealand to defeat his compatriot Donald Young, who played with Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico. The first two sets were split between the pairs and both were decided in close tiebreaks. The crucial break came in the third set, eventually spelling a 6-3 win for Harrison and Venus.

As world number ones and top seeds, Lucie Safarova & Bethanie Mattek-Sands have taken their third consecutive Grand Slam doubles title and fifth overall. They defeated the Australian pair of Ashleigh Barty & Casey Dellacqua, who are yet to win a major final despite having now played in four. The Czech-American pair were in command from the outset, dominating their opponents for 6-2 6-1 victory.

The mixed doubles title went to Rohan Bopanna of India and Gabriel Dabrowski of Canada. They snuck through 2-6 6-2 12-10 in the championship tiebreak over Robert Farah (COL) and Anna-Lena Grönefeld (GER) in a match featuring players from four different continents. Dabrowski has the honour of becoming the first Canadian woman to ever win a Grand Slam title.

JUNIORS

Australian number 3 seed Alexei Popyrin defeated the eleventh-seeded Spaniard Nicola Kuhn 7-6(5) 6-3 in what was to be his last Grand Slam as a Junior. Whitney Osuigwe of the USA defeated her friend and compatriot Claire Liu to take the girls’ singles title in a tough-fought 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 win. Kuhn made up for his loss in the in the boys’ doubles final when he teamed up with Zsombor Piros of Hungary to take the title, while Bianca Andreescu & Carson Branstine of Canada won the girls’ doubles title over former Tennis Europe Junior Tour standouts and European Junior Champions, Anastasia Potapova & Olesya Pervushina (RUS).

 

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