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Halep To Combat Ostapenko In French Open Final

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Simona Halep has set up a French Open final against Jelena Ostapenko, taking her to within touching distance of a first Grand Slam title and the world number one spot.

Romanian third seed Halep, the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2014, claimed a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Karolina Pliskova, the second-seeded Czech.

Unseeded Ostapenko downed Timea Bacsinszky 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-3 on her 20th birthday to become the first Latvian finalist at a major.

The eventual champion on Saturday will be a first-time major winner while victory for Halep would crown her as the new world number one, replacing Angelique Kerber.

“It’s an amazing feeling right now,” said 25-year-old Halep after her fifth win in six meetings against Pliskova, the world number three.

“It was extremely tough today as Karolina is a very tough opponent.

“To be in the final again is great. I hope to win this time.

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“But I am facing a young opponent, it will be a big challenge.”

Pliskova ended the tie with 45 winners and a staggering 55 unforced errors.

In contrast, Halep registered 14 in both columns.

For Halep, the win came just a day after she saved a match point and came from a set and 1-5 to beat Elina Svitolina in the last eight.

Pliskova, the 25-year-old Czech, would have taken the world top spot if she had made her second Slam final.

In the end, she could at least reflect on progress in Paris — before this year, she had never got beyond the second round in five attempts.

Ostapenko presented herself with the perfect 20th birthday gift by reaching a first French Open final after blasting past 30th seed Bacsinszky, a semi-finalist also in 2015.

“I’m really happy to be in the final, especially on my birthday. I think it’s a nice gift,” said Ostapenko, whose win was greeted by the crowd singing ‘happy birthday’.

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The world number 47 is the first unseeded player to reach the final in Paris since Mima Jausovec in 1983.

– ‘Braver, more courage’ –

Ostapenko is also the youngest woman to advance to the final of a major since a 19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki finished runner-up at the 2009 US Open.

“I was always playing aggressive and hitting the ball when I have a chance,” said Ostapenko, who smacked 50 winners to Bacsinszky’s 22.

*AFP

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