French Open WTA Leaders

We are just hours away from the women’s final at the 2017 French Open. After 126 matches, 25 year-old Simona Halep and 20 year-old Jelena Ostapenko are the last women’s players remaining. And, whatever the outcome on Saturday in Paris, the women’s tour will see a new French Open champion and new Grand Slam title-holder crowned.

A number of factors make the pairing in the Roland Garros women’s final surprising. Although Halep is the third seed, there was a lot of uncertainty at the start of the event about her ability to play to her full potential after she suffered a nasty ankle injury in Rome just a few days before the start of the first round. Ostapenko, on the other hand, is unseeded with no WTA title yet to her credit. To have guessed that the next gen star would reach the finals of a Major only two years after making her Grand Slam main draw debut would have taken a feat of clairvoyance.

While the chance of a Halep-Ostapenko final was anything but certain on Day 1 of the French Open, there can be no doubt that it has taken extraordinary skill and drive for both women to reach this milestone in their careers. In this post, I want to look back at the top female performers at the French Open with a special focus on the performances that got Halep and Ostapenko into the finals.

Serve and Return Leaders

The serve performance from rounds 1 thru 6 at the French Open show Halep with a 62% average on serve and Ostapenko slightly behind with an average of 61.4%. On return, Halep and Ostapenko both remain neck-and-neck, Halep having the slight edge again with an average of 55.1% compared to Ostapenko’s average of 54.6%. Keep in mind that we can directly compare these numbers even though each player faced different opponents because they are adjusted to account for the serve/return difficulty of the players they each faced.

Interestingly, Halep has raised her serve game in the last four rounds, while Ostapenko has been fairly steady aside from one especially strong service performance in her second round defeat of Monica Puig. The return performances of both women have been nearly indistinguishable for the first week of the event. In the last two matches, Halep has shown some decline which could put her at a disadvantage in the final if that trend holds true.

The cumulative serve and return performance puts Halep and Ostapenko at the 2nd and 3rd spots for the event (see the tables below). No other player held the same position in both ratings, which makes the consistency in Halep and Ostapenko’s performance so far especially impressive.

Rank Player Serve Rating Mean Percentage
1 Karolina Pliskova 377.4 62.9
2 Simona Halep 372.1 62.0
3 Jelena Ostapenko 368.1 61.4
4 Timea Bacsinszky 359.9 60.0
5 Elina Svitolina 313.6 62.7
6 Caroline Garcia 311.6 62.3
7 Caroline Wozniacki 310.8 62.2
8 Kristina Mladenovic 299.7 59.9
9 Petra Martic 261.9 65.5
10 Samantha Stosur 254.0 63.5

Rank Player Return Rating Mean Percentage
1 Timea Bacsinszky 337.9 56.3
2 Simona Halep 330.5 55.1
3 Jelena Ostapenko 327.9 54.6
4 Karolina Pliskova 286.7 47.8
5 Caroline Wozniacki 264.4 52.9
6 Kristina Mladenovic 241.3 48.3
7 Caroline Garcia 237.2 47.4
8 Alize Cornet 225.6 56.4
9 Elina Svitolina 224.5 44.9
10 Petra Martic 211.1 52.8

Clutch Leaders

Both Halep and Ostapenko have had to face fierce competition to get to the 7th Round at Roland Garros. Halep’s last two matches have each gone to 3 sets. Ostapenko has had 3 setters in 4 of her 6 matches, including the first round and her 3 most recent matches. Having to survive this close contests makes every point more critical and performance on the most important points in the match vital.

Clutch stats focus on performance on important points. And looking at Halep and Ostapenko’s clutch serve and return adds an interesting dimension to what their overall stats show. First, under pressure, Halep has separated herself more on serve compared to Ostapenko, maintaining a clutch average of 61.3% compared to Ostapenko’s 55.5%. When returning under pressure, however, Ostapenko has the edge over Halep for the first stats of all we have considered. Ostapenko’s average clutch return has been 52.1% and Halep is just behind at 51.6%.

From the match-by-match chart, we can see that in the most recent rounds, Halep has dominated on clutch serve while Ostapenko has had the upperhand on the return. This sets up for a clash of skills for Saturday’s final. If the match is close, as it is expected to be, it will be anyone’s guess as to who will be able to maintain their clutch numbers.

Rank Player Clutch ServeRating Avg Clutch Serve Avg Differential
1 Karolina Pliskova 315.6 63.1 0.6
2 Elina Svitolina 314.7 62.9 1.5
3 Simona Halep 306.3 61.3 1.1
4 Jelena Ostapenko 277.7 55.5 2.0
5 Caroline Garcia 237.2 59.3 -0.1
6 Caroline Wozniacki 233.7 58.4 2.0
7 Kristina Mladenovic 226.6 56.6 -0.2
8 Svetlana Kuznetsova 214.1 53.5 0.7
9 Magda Linette 194.2 64.7 1.0
10 Shelby Rogers 185.1 61.7 -2.1

Rank Player Clutch Return Rating Avg Clutch Return Avg Differential
1 Jelena Ostapenko 260.5 52.1 -0.6
2 Simona Halep 257.8 51.6 1.1
3 Karolina Pliskova 226.2 45.2 1.4
4 Elina Svitolina 225.6 45.1 2.0
5 Svetlana Kuznetsova 198.8 49.7 4.2
6 Kristina Mladenovic 194.4 48.6 3.9
7 Caroline Wozniacki 190.2 47.5 1.2
8 Caroline Garcia 188.1 47.0 3.0
9 Garbine Muguruza 164.6 54.9 3.5
10 Mariana Duque Marino 155.1 51.7 1.5