Monday, 17 December, 2018

No pressure for Simona Halep ahead of title match vs Sloane Stephens

Halep has won all seven matches against left-handers this campaign Halep has won all seven matches against left-handers this campaign Credit Getty Images
Sergio Cook | 10 June, 2018, 10:16

"I'm really happy that I could beat a player like Muguruza", Halep said after the match.

Backed by fans who loudly chanted her first name between games, Halep went ahead 3-0 in only 15 minutes with the help of only one victor.

With 10th-seed Stephens beginning to fade, and momentum behind her, Halep raced into a five-game lead, but, Stephens, facing the ignominy of a third-set bagel, managed to get on the board in the sixth game. American Sloane Stephens, however, didn't make it easy.

Halep has now defeated Muguruza in both their meetings on clay and will also retain the world number one ranking next week.

Halep drew on the memories of her unpleasant experiences in a 2014 French Open final defeat to Maria Sharapova, a showdown with Jelena Ostapenko a year ago and her Australian Open loss to Caroline Woznacki in January to pull herself off the ropes. Because past year I was a little bit defensive when I was leading the match, and now I just change it in my mind.

Stephens started the game aggressively but Halep was able to hold her own to start with. "I try not to put too much pressure on myself".

She first came close to winning the French Open in 2014, losing a three-set final to Maria Sharapova.

Halep reads the game beautifully and flows around the court with a rare grace, and her quest for a Grand Slam title underscored her steely side.

On Saturday, Halep finally broke through, becoming the first Romanian woman to win the French Open in 40 years. "Mentally you have to be tough, physically you have to be strong, you need a little bit of luck".

That's what happened Saturday at Roland-Garros. She led unseeded Jelena Ostapenko one set to love, and 3-0 in the second set, three games away from her breakthrough. "Just going to take it in (my) stride and just enjoy it and go out and compete".

A string of defeats followed that wonderful feat but she kept focused until defying the odds by going all the way to Saturday's final in Paris.

She had never previously got past the fourth round in Paris before this year.

Stephens advancement to the French Open Finals allowed her to move up in the WTA rankings from number 10 to number 4, a personal career-high for the 25-year-old southern belle who is sure to see plenty more victories in her near future.

Stephens has played six tour-level finals, and won the lot, including at the US Open in September.

"I said there is a chance to come back and win it". This court is my favourite one. "It's another great opportunity and I am looking forward to it".

In Australia in January she ran out of gas on a steamy Melbourne night against Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki but after a relatively comfortable passage through the Paris draw, she will be firing on all cylinders this time. That worked. Stephens ended up with 39 unforced errors, 13 more than Halep.

She went to 5-2 on a double break and although Keys rallied, the statistics made brutal reading. Stephens won the sixth game before Halep held her serve and completed the victory in front of a delighted Parisien crowd.

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