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Halep takes on Stephens in French Open final
Will it be third time lucky for Simon Halep? It‘s the question her fans are posing. The 26-year-old Romanian lost in her first final at Roland Garros in 2014 against Maria Sharapova and more surprisingly in 2017 to Jelena Ostapenko.
The Latvian was dispatched in the opening round – the first defending champion to suffer such ignominy since Anastasia Myskina in 2005.
But Halep is still standing and she will take on the 10th seed Sloane Stephens who approaches her first Roland Garros final as the reigning US Open champion. She also has a perfect record in finals.
“It’s another good opportunity,” said the 25-year-old American. “Obviously a final is always super special, super important. I'm glad that I was able to compete the last two weeks very well and end up in another final.”
She added: “I’m just going to take it in my stride and go out and compete.”
That Stephens is back on the circuit and at this level is a testament to her willpower and fortitude. She was off the tour for nearly a year with a foot injury. She returned just before Wimbledon 2017 and then started her ascent.
“Obviously there were a lot of emotions like: am I ever going to be the same? Am I ever going to play good again at a high enough level? I have matured a little bit and have recognised the opportunities when they have been presented,” she said.
“I think the most important thing is that I have taken those opportunities and done a lot with them.”
Halep, who also lost in the final of the 2018 Australian Open, is on a similar track. She says hard work and a level head is the key to success. “It's a big chance to win my dream tournament. But this doesn't mean it's going to happen. It's a normal match that I must play against this opponent.”
Halep confirmed her status as world number one following her 6-1 6-4 semi-final victory over Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard had a chance to usurp her with a win. But she was outwitted and ultimately outfought.
It’s fitting that a girl from Constanta in Romanian has been a solid fixture in the upper echelons of the tour over the past three years. A Grand Slam crown is all that is lacking in her list of achievements. Stephens already has that boast.