Paris: Jelena Ostapenko presented herself with the perfect 20th birthday gift by reaching a first French Open final after blasting past Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky on Thursday.
The Latvian became the first Grand Slam finalist from her country as she overpowered 30th seed Bacsinszky 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-3 in the last four at Roland Garros.
She will face Romanian third seed Simona Halep, the 2014 runner-up, for the title on Saturday.
"I'm really happy to be in the final, especially on my birthday. I think it's a nice gift," said Ostapenko, whose win was greeted by the crowd singing 'happy birthday'.
The World No 47 is the first unseeded player to reach the final in Paris since Mima Jausovec in 1983.
Ostapenko is also the youngest woman to advance to the final of a major since a 19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki finished runner-up at the 2009 US Open.
"I was always playing aggressive and hitting the ball when I have a chance," said Ostapenko, who smacked 50 winners to Bacsinszky's 22.
"It was a really tough match. I think it was a battle.
"I think it was kind of important that I won the first set, even the second I lost, but in the third set I found my game again.
"I felt a little bit tight because...I was very close to making the final and some thoughts were in my mind," added Ostapenko, whose previous best run at a Slam was reaching the third round at the Australian Open.
"But then I was just trying to be calm and just to try to play my game and just enjoy every moment."
For 30th-seeded Bacsinszky it was a second semi-final defeat in three years in Paris.
"Of course I'm disappointed. I'm a competitor, and it really annoys me not to be in the final," said Bacsinszky, who was beaten on her 28th birthday.
"I'm not ashamed to say that she played better. She was braver. She had more courage. She was more successful."
Ostapenko fell in the first round on her main draw debut in Paris last year but is one win away from becoming the first player since Gustavo Kuerten in 1997 to win their maiden tour-level title at a Slam.
Kuerten won that year's French Open -- the first of three Roland Garros titles for the Brazilian -- on the same day Ostapenko was born.
Bacsinszky, who was beaten in three sets by eventual champion Serena Williams on her previous trip to the last four, broke Ostapenko for an early 2-0 lead.
But the Latvian took the challenge to Bacsinszky with her aggression, nipping ahead at 4-3 before the Swiss called for the trainer.
Bacsinszky complained of a problem above her right knee after jarring her foot in the clay and resumed play with her leg heavily taped.
Ostapenko faltered when she tried to serve it out at 6-5, but the Latvian took the tie-break with a swinging backhand volley.
Ostapenko, whose average forehand speed of 76 mph this tournament has eclipsed that of Andy Murray (73), continued to let fly with a bombardment of winners and errors.
"Normally my backhand is my favourite shot. But I was working on the forehand, and I think it's pretty good now," said a grinning Ostapenko.
But Bacsinszky pounced as the Latvian's radar misfired to break for 4-3 in the second set before Ostapenko gifted it to her with a double fault on set point.
However Ostapenko's fearless approach paid off after a series of breaks to start the decider. She landed the crucial blow to pull 4-3 ahead before sealing victory in two hours and 25 minutes.
"Today I'm just gonna have fun with my family and my friends," Ostapenko said of her birthday plans.
"Tomorrow I'm going to practise and get ready for the final."
Published Date: Jun 09, 2017 17:23 PM | Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 17:23 PM