Jelena Ostapenko springs a surprise in French Open

Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko was the unexpected winner of a grand slam trophy. Picture:  Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko was the unexpected winner of a grand slam trophy. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Jelena Ostapenko overpowered title favourite Simona Halep to become one of the most surprising grand slam champions of all time.

The 20-year-old, ranked 47, had never been beyond the third round at a grand slam before nor won a senior title.

But she was unfazed, hitting 54 winners in a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory to become the first Latvian ever to win a grand slam singles crown.

Ostapenko made a nerveless start, hitting two clean winners and two more virtual winners to break the Halep serve to love.

But the other side of her game came out when she gave the game straight back, and it was a similar story when Ostapenko broke again to lead 3-2.

The key game of the set came on the Halep serve at 4-4.

Ostapenko pushed for the break but Halep is a better defender than any of the Latvian’s previous opponents and she withstood the pressure.

Ostapenko was then unable to hold her serve, finishing the set with a tally of 14 winners and 23 unforced errors.

In the absence of Serena Williams and Sharapova, Halep clearly felt her name was on this trophy.

She refused to accept she might not even make it to Paris after suffering an ankle injury a week before the tournament and then fought back from a set and 5-1 down against Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.

The Romanian looked to be cruising towards the title at 3-0 in the second set but betrayed her emotions by throwing her racket to the clay when Ostapenko stopped the rot after a long game.

And suddenly the balance started to shift the way of power over patience.

Ostapenko turned the set around with four games in a row and then levelled the match with a forehand down the line – the shot that was doing the most damage.

This was now a real test of Halep’s new-found positive attitude, with the Romanian having been briefly dumped earlier this season by coach Darren Cahill because he did not like her mindset.

She dug in at the start of the decider, fighting back from 15-40 to hold serve, and took advantage of more Ostapenko errors to lead 3-1.

But, as in the second set, Halep was allowing – or perhaps helpless to prevent – the match being played on Ostapenko’s racket.

Back came the Latvian, who enjoyed a huge stroke of fortune when a backhand clipped the top of the net and bounced down on Halep’s side to give her a break for 4-3.

By now the momentum was unstoppably with Ostapenko and she took her first match point after an hour and 59 minutes.