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Halep one match away from first Grand Slam win

By Eleanor Crooks

Title favourite Simona Halep will face newcomer Jelena Ostapenko in the women's French Open final tomorrow.

After Ostapenko celebrated her 20th birthday in spectacular fashion with a 7-6 (7/4) 3-6 6-3 semi-final victory over Timea Bacsinszky, Halep defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4 3-6 6-3.

The third seed will now bid for her first grand slam title in her second French Open final, after losing to Maria Sharapova in 2014.

Halep was thankful still to be in the tournament after her remarkable recovery from a set and 5-1 down against Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.

She certainly seemed more relaxed against second seed Pliskova and used her clay court nous to defeat the big-hitting Czech.

The fast conditions at Roland Garros have helped Pliskova and, after Halep controlled the first set, Pliskova found her range on her big serve and forehand in the second.

There was more than just a place in the final at stake here, with both players also competing for the chance to overtake Angelique Kerber as world number one.

Pliskova only needed to win this match while Halep must take the title.

And it is the Romanian who will have that opportunity after she proved just the stronger in the deciding set.

Halep won a long game to break for 3-1 with a brilliant running forehand pass and then fought off two break points in the following game.

Pliskova fought back to 4-3 but then played a poor service game and Halep took victory on her first match point.

Earlier, Ostapenko won her birthday battle against Bacsinszky, who turned 28 yesterday, to become the first unseeded woman to reach the French Open final since Mima Jausovec in 1983.

Ostapenko is the first Latvian grand slam finalist and the youngest at any grand slam since Caroline Wozniacki in New York eight years ago.

The Latvian has been the surprise package of a wide open tournament having never previously been beyond the third round at a slam.

Ostapenko's forehand, which this fortnight has averaged three miles per hour faster than Andy Murray's, had helped her blast her way past Sam Stosur and Wozniacki in the previous two rounds.

She edged a first set in which she hit 21 winners and, although Bacsinszky fought back from 3-1 to 3-3, Ostapenko clinched victory with a forehand into the corner, her 50th winner.

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