It’s taken thirteen days of non-stop, wall-to-wall, predictably unpredictable action, but we’re finally here: the women’s singles final.
In one corner, is Simona Halep, the world number four and a finalist here in 2014. At 25, she is being branded the “veteran” in this encounter, yet while she certainly doesn’t lack for top-level experience, there’s no denying the massive improvements she’s made to get back here, and if anything, a win here would be her just getting started.
Across from here is Jelena Ostapenko, the picture of brash young talent – not just in the way she drops bombs off her forehand, but also in her temperamental demeanour. She’s quickly gained the appreciation of tennis fans with her fearless play, but in Halep and her first major final, she is faced with her hardest test yet.
Read on for our preview of the 2017 French Open Women’s Singles final.
Simona Halep (ROU)  vs Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)
By now you probably know the rundown for Halep: she wins here, she becomes world no. 1, and while that’s significant for the obvious reasons, it’s also important for what it means in a (potentially) post-Serena landscape on the WTA tour. Angelique Kerber has simply proven unworthy of the ranking, and having a freshly-crowned Halep on top way to overcome what is undoubtedly a less-than-ideal situation for the game. Of course, all that builds pressure, and Halep hasn’t been the most adept at handling it in the past – can she do so here?
If Ostapenko wins, she’ll be the youngest women’s champion since Maria Sharapova, and that alone will put her on the verge of superstardom in the sport, even if it is her first career WTA title. She’s already proved this tournament to be the real deal, and unlike Halep has no ghosts or expectation – all she has to do is continue to play as she has. Maybe history awaits the 20-year-old, but for now, it really is all fun and games.
Both women come in off the back of titanic three-set semi- and quarter-finals, with Ostapenko’s streak going back an additional match to her fourth-round encounter with Sam Stosur. Partly it’s been down to strong play from their opponents, but each has had their own share of shaking moments, and it would be unrealistic not to expect more as they go for their first major title.
“Styles make fights” may not be the concrete maxim in tennis that it is in boxing, but it certainly applies here. They’ve never played before, but Ostapenko’s heavy-hitting flies in stark contrast to Halep’s dogged defense-oriented game and that should make for plenty of entertaining tennis. There’s no doubting Ostapenko has the power to dictate what are sure to be myriad baseline exchanges, but as we saw against Karolina Pliskova, Halep can absorb and redirect that power like few others. Ostapenko will get her licks – that forehand truly is colossal – but she’s going to be forced to play far more backhands than she’d like, as Halep will continually try to stretch the court with everything from drop shots and sharp angles, to cheeky moonballs, and that makes the possible outcomes for this match incredibly varied.
Forget their rankings, this match is incredibly even. Ostapenko could blast Halep off the court, or Halep could wear Ostapenko down with her counter-punching. Or it may come down simply to composure. It really is anyone’s, but if there has to be a pick, Halep’s experience helps her edge it.
Halep in three topsy-turvy sets.