Halep vs Ostapenko in final: ’It’s very fast court, so it really fits me’

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 13 — How good is Simona Halep? Is she great? Fantastic? Nearly great? Over hyped? Up and down?

We will find out tomorrow as she returns to a final in Paris.

The same questions can be posed about the 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, even though her career is ahead of her.

We all know that Ostapenko is incredibly aggressive, that she can crack the ball from both sides, and she can come into the net when needed. But even though she has had a very good year overall, she is still learning. She can nail the corners for a few minutes, and then, all of a sudden, slap it way wide. But as she said yesterday, she needs to be a calm, composed, driven.

On the clay, she reached the final at Charleston, upsetting Caro Wozniacki and Mirjana Lucic. In the final, she quickly lost against Daria Kasakina. So, so many errors, but at least she got there.

She qualified in Stuttgart and Rome. In Paris, she was ready go play ball.    

“I’m playing pretty well on clay. But here I think it’s very special, said Ostapenko. “It’s very fast court so it really fits me. … Since I probably
started to play tennis, I had a possibility to play aggressive. So, I was always trying to play aggressive and that’s my game style.”

Halep says that everyone knows that she is right there to grab No. 1 for the first time. But she has never played against Ostapenko, and she’s a little worried. She has to decide: Can she just stand and wait for the ball, or does she need to attack the Latvian immediately?

“It’s tough to know what to expect against Ostapenko. She’s hitting very strong the balls,” Halep said. “It’s going to be the same plan. But I will focus more on myself. I’m not focusing on herself too much. I just want to do my game, to be there, focused, to move well.  It’s going to be a big match, tough match. I know that she can play her best tennis. She has nothing to lose. So, I’m going there and I will be ready.”

The guys

What an amazing match by Stan Wawrinka, who overcomes Andy Murray 6-7(6) 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) 6-1 in the semis.  The Swiss won the tournament two years ago. He believes that if he plays great, he could stun Rafa Nadal.

Wawrinka and Murray ran side-to-side, up and down, back and forth. It was all about the backhands, and Wawrinka won, going very deep and super heavy. He rarely looked tired.

“There are two ways of seeing things and I chose to be positive, knowing that I was dominating,” said Wawrinka.

The No. 1 Murray looked a little bit better over the past two weeks, but he has struggled this year, at least for a No. 1. Will it go away this year? It’s hard to say, but we do know that he will always push himself. Very hard, or too hard.

“Maybe the lack of matches has hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high intensity match,” Murray said. “A lot of long points. When you haven’t been playing loads, over four, four and a-half hours, that can catch up a little bit. … Physically I didn’t feel my best at the end.”

Wawrinka has won the three major finals he has played. Here is the most important thing: If Wawrinka wins, he will own four Grand Slams titles. Murray has three majors. If the Swiss passes the Scot, does that mean that Wawrinka is better than Murray? Day to day, over the past 10 years, Murray has been better than Wawrinka, more consistent, but over the past three years, Wawrinka has risen.

When they retire, then we can find out exactly who was better.

Nadal destroyed Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-4 6-0 in the semis. Clearly, Nadal is the favorite. His lefty forehand is phenomenal, and he has actually improved his backhand, finally hitting it deep. If Nadal wins, he will have 15 Grand Slams. Then, possibly, Roger Federer’s 18 will be in his sights.