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French Open: Simona Halep punches her ticket to Roland Garros final

Romania’s Simona Halep waves after her French Open semifinal win against Karolina Pliskova. (Getty Images)

Saturday’s French Open women’s final will be a showcase of firsts as 25-year-old Simona Halep and 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko will play each other for the first time in their careers while both competing for their first Roland Garros title.

Ostapenko, the unseeded Latvian, booked her ticket to the finals after defeating Timea Bacsinszky in three sets with “aggressive” play and rifling forehands. She also recorded a 76 mph forehand during the match, hitting three miles per hour faster than No. 1-seeded men’s tennis star Andy Murray.

Halep, on the other hand, has earned praise throughout the tournament for her defensive capabilities and persistence. Both of Halep’s last two matches have gone into three sets, and her recent win against No. 2 Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, pushes her closer to a No. 1 world ranking if she can maintain her momentum. The Romanian suffered an ankle injury just weeks ago, but her play demonstrates that her movement is back, and so is her strength.

“To be in the final again is great. I hope to win this time,” Halep said. “But I am facing a young opponent, it will be a big challenge.”

Romania’s Halep is ranked No. 3 in the tournament and will be looking to redeem herself after a 2014 French Open finals loss to Maria Sharapova. Her opponent, Ostapenko, will be playing in her first-ever Grand Slam final and is only the fifth unseeded player in history to reach the finals. If Ostapenko wins, she will be the only unseeded female athlete to ever win the French Open.