In an upset-filled French Open where a first-time women's champion is guaranteed, it’s Latvian Jelena Ostapenko who is having the biggest breakout performance.
The rising star, who turned 20 on Thursday, celebrated her birthday by defeating Timea Bacsinszky to advance to Saturday's women's singles final. With the victory, Ostapenko became the first unseeded woman to reach the French Open final since Mima Jausovec in 1983 and the youngest woman to reach a Grand Slam final since 19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki at the 2009 US Open.
Coincidentally, Ostapenko defeated Wozniacki, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, in the French Open quarterfinals.
Here are seven things to know about this up-and-comer:
- Ostapenko has played some of the best tennis of her career on the red clay of the French capital this week, overcoming Olympians, Grand Slam champions and early deficits. She has lost the opening set in three of her five matches so far, including in her first-round win over American Louisa Chirico. She took out Rio gold medalist Monica Puig in Round 2 and 2011 US Open champ Sam Stosur in the round of 16 before rallying past Wozniacki in the quarterfinals and 2016 French Open semifinalist Bacsinsky in the semis.
- A victory on Saturday would give Ostapenko her first-ever WTA tour title. The last player to win his/her first tour title at the French Open was men's champion Gustavo Kuerten on June 8, 1997 – the day Ostapenko was born.
- She has played the US Open twice. In her New York debut in 2015, the Latvian came through qualifying and defeated world No. 62 Annika Beck in the first round before falling to 16th seed Sara Errani in three sets. Last year, Ostapenko, who narrowly missed out on being seeded, lost to two-time Wimbledon champion and No. 14 seed Petra Kvitova, 7-5, 6-3.
- Ostapenko was a junior standout. In 2014, she won the girls’ title at Wimbledon, beating Kristina Schmiedlova, the younger sister of former world No. 26 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, and she peaked at No. 2 in the world junior rankings later that year.
- The teenager has reached WTA singles finals in each of the past three years, advancing to the championship match in Charleston (2017), Doha (2016) and Quebec City (2015). She won her first career professional title in February in doubles, teaming with Poland’s Alicja Rosolska to capture the title in St. Petersburg. On the ITF Pro Circuit, Ostapenko has won seven singles titles and eight doubles crowns.
- She won her first two matches against Top 10 players, dropping just two games in upsetting world No. 9 Carla Suarez Navarro at Wimbledon in 2015 and then rallying to beat Kvitova in the round of 16 in Doha last February.
- Ostapenko played 12 Fed Cup singles matches for Latvia between 2013-15, going 7-5 overall. Last August, she represented her country at the Rio Olympics, where she lost to Australia’s Stosur, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.