by Randy Walker
There are too many fascinating facts about Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia winning the women’s singles title at Roland Garros not to share.
The 20-year-old No. 47-ranked defeated Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final to become not only the first player from Latvia to win a major championship, but became the first unseeded player to win the women’s title since Margaret Scriven in 1933. Since there are now 32 seeded players in major championships (since 2001), this is an even more outstanding statistic when only 16 players were seeded in most championships – or even only eight in 1933 when Scriven won.
Incredibly, Ostapenko had never won a professional tournament before her dramatic win in Paris. She became the first player to make Roland Garros their maiden pro tournament victory since Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil did the same as the No. 66-ranked player – on the exact day that Ostapenko was born, June 8, 1997.
On Thursday, June 8, 2017 – Ostapenko’s 20th birthday – she advanced into the women’s final with 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3 win over Timea Bacsinsky, who was also celebrating her birthday, turning 28.
Halep, who would have won her first major championship and secure the world No. 1 ranking with the win, led the match 6-4, 3-0 but was not able to close out the match against the loose and free-hitting Ostapenko. Halep also led 3-1 in the final set but, again, could not close out the championship. In one of the most famous – or infamous – let-cord shots in the history of tennis, Ostapenko secured her crucial service break when she hit a down-the-line backhand that was heading wide, but clipped the top of the net, bouncing high in the air while also ricocheting back into the court for a winner.
Ostapenko hit an equalizing 54 winners and 54 unforced errors in the final.
Ostapenko becomes the lowest-RANKED player to win a major singles title since Serena Williams won the 2007 Australian Open when she was ranked No. 81. Kim Clijsters won the 2009 US Open when she did not have a ranking, returning to pro tennis after retirement to have a child.