Halep back from brink to reach French Open semi-final

Lynette Rowe
June 21, 2017

Coincidentally, Bacsinszky also celebrated her birthday today, turning 28.

Halep's win was not the story of the day in Paris, as birthday girl, the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko, continued her Cinderella run after her 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3 win over the number 30 seed, Timea Bacsinszky, becoming the first-ever Latvian to reach a Grand Slam final.

"I'm really happy, I love to be here", Ostapenko said after the crowd serenaded her with a chorus of Happy Birthday.

"I think today I showed that I'm stronger mentally", Halep was quoted as saying on the French Open's official Web site.

"I was always playing aggressive and trying to hit the ball when I can".

She allowed her opponent just four winners in the first set and was four games to the good in the second before the Romanian's remarkable turnaround.

Pliskova then broke to level the set but Halep broke straight back to leave the Romanian serving for the match.

After sharing the first six games into the match, the Latvian broke to build a 4-3 lead after the seventh game.

But Ostapenko played fearlessly in the decider and pounded away a 50th clean victor to become the first Latvian player to reach a grand slam final.

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Halep kept Pliskova deep on the court in the late stages of the match, and needed only one of two match points to put Pliskova away and advance to face Ostapenko. After all, while she was the runner-up to Kerber at the U.S. Open after beating Serena Williams in the semifinals, Pliskova has never had any success to speak of on clay. Halep - one of the best movers in the game - soaked up pressure and forced her opponent to miss: Pliskova committed 24 unforced errors in the first.

The third-seeded Halep said the key to the victory over Svitolina was her determination to keep fighting when the match looked lost.

The other semifinal features a pair of long shots in the 30th-seeded Timea Bacsinszky and unseeded Jelena Ostapenko.

"This was my second time, so going forward, I think this can help me build more confidence".

The first set seemed to fit the pattern many expected. The last woman to win her first title in a Grand Slam event was Australian Chris O'Neil at the 1978 Australian Open, and the last man to do it was Gustavo Kuerten at Roland Garros in 1997.

"There can not be something bigger than to play for being world No. 1", Pliskova said, per Rothenberg.

Pliskova tallied 33 winners and 31 unforced errors in the final two sets, so it was the first set that cost her. "I think I'm different player".

Halep made her only previous grand slam final at the French Open three years ago, losing a very tight three-setter to Maria Sharapova.

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