Ostapenko, Halep eye maiden Slam

Ostapenko, Halep eye maiden Slam

Intriguing title clash on cards

Ostapenko, Halep eye maiden Slam
Simona Halep is targeting the world number one ranking in Saturday's French Open final but fast-rising Latvian upstart Jelena Ostapenko threatens to crash the Romanian's party as a first-time major champion will be crowned.

Halep marked herself out as a favourite for the title at Roland Garros after winning in Madrid and finishing runner-up in Rome, but a tumble in the Italian Open final left her with ankle ligament damage and cast doubt over whether she would play in Paris.

The 25-year-old has since dismissed concerns over her fitness and finds herself one win away from a memorable maiden Slam title triumph.

"It's a big challenge, a big chance. I think I have the game. I have the mentality to win, but it's going to be tough," said Halep, who lost to Maria Sharapova in three sets in the 2014 French Open final. Third seed Halep stormed into the quarterfinals without dropping a set, but she faced match point against Elina Svitolina before pulling off a miraculous recovery from 3-6, 1-5 down to reach the last four.

Halep then beat Karolina Pliskova to set up an intriguing clash with unseeded Ostapenko. "I never played against her. I don't know what to expect from her," said Halep.

Ostapenko's run is all the more remarkable given her third-round exit at this year's Australian Open represented her best previous Grand Slam performance. She is the first Latvian to reach a Slam final.
"When I came here, of course I didn't expect I would be in the final," said Ostapenko, who celebrated her 20th birthday on Thursday by beating Timea Bacsinszky in the semifinals.

"But then, like, first match was a tough match, as well, and I won it. I think it kind of gave me confidence. Then every match I was playing better and better and I got my confidence, and I think it works pretty well."

She is also hoping to win a maiden tour-level title at a Slam -- a feat last accomplished by Gustavo Kuerten at the French Open in 1997 on the same day Ostapenko was born.