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Simona Halep will play for her first major title and the WTA No. 1 ranking against unseeded Jelena Ostapenko in Saturday's French Open final.

By Jon Wertheim
June 08, 2017

PARIS – One can imagine the pressure on both of the second coupling of women's semifinalists at Roland Garros on Thursday.

While neither Karolina Pliskova nor Simona Halep has won a major, both have reached a final. And they took the court knowing their opponent Saturday would be an unseeded player who just turned 20 years old. Oh, you want more pressure? Both Halep and Pliskova knew that—for all intents—the winner of this match would take over the No. 1 ranking.

Despite that hefty backdrop, both players played unruffled tennis and did as they often do: Pliskova served bombs and painted lines with her fearsome forehand. Halep chased down every ball, showed off her exceptional movement and, above all, newfound fight.

Get to know 20-year-old surprise French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko

Earlier this year, she split briefly with her coach, Darren Cahill, on account of her defeatism on the court. For the second straight day there was none of that in evidence. In fact, quite the contrary. After dropping the second set, Halep was steadier in the third and closed the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. She'll be the favorite in the final Saturday, and her first major would complement her No. 1 ranking nicely. 

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One of the great myths of tennis—maybe of sports—states that experience is automatically a benefit. Sometimes the player who recognizes the weight of the occasion is duly burdened by it. And the newcomer swinging away with reckless abandon is at an advantage. Such was the case in the first women's semifinal on Thursday.

Jelena Ostapenko may not have won a title of any size in professional tennis. But she plays aggressive go-for-broke tennis and, having just turned 20 on Thursday, goes about her business as though she's playing with house money. Her high-risk/high reward game yielded the latter, as she beat Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in three sets, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3. Ostapenko cracked 50 winners and recovered nicely after dropping the second set.

So far the decade has treated her well. Imagine if Ostapenko's first pro tennis title is a French Open crown? She's one match from it and hardly seems flustered by the possibility.

Snapshots from the semifinals

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