American, Romanian to face off in French Open finals
PARIS—Top-ranked Romanian Simona Halep and American Sloane Stephens will face each other in the French Open final in Paris on Saturday.
Halep, who will be in her third final at Roland Garros following losses in 2014 and 2017, eliminated third-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-4 in 92 minutes on Thursday to retain her top spot in the rankings, while Stephens, ranked and seeded 10th, defeated 13th-seeded Madison Keys 6-4, 6-4 in 75 minutes in an all-American semifinal.
Halep has beaten Stephens five times in seven career meetings, including the last four and both times on clay.
Halep faced a tall task in overcoming Muguruza, who had beaten the Romanian in three of their last four meetings entering the matchup. Halep jumped out to a 5-0 lead on her way to claiming the first set before falling behind 3-1 in the second. She would right the ship, however, winning three straight games from down 4-2 and breaking Muguruza in the 10th game to seal the victory.
"I'm really happy that I could beat a player like Muguruza," Halep said after the match. "She's a great opponent, a great player, and it's always tough against her."
The tiebreaking ninth game of the third set essentially sealed the match, with Halep fending off three break points before claiming the lengthy battle.
"I think it was the most important game of the match," said Halep. "The fact that I could win that long game, I won the next one easily, so it was a little bit of mental part in the last game. I just didn't give up. I was a little bit upset of what I have played those points. I had two double faults, so it was a bit tough.
"But I stayed calm. I stayed focused, and I didn't give up, which is the most important thing in my game. Then I was very confident that I can finish."
Stephens' clash with Keys represented a rematch of the 2017 US Open final, which Stephens won. The matchup was the first All-American semifinal match at Roland Garros since 2002.
"It's never easy playing someone from your country, let alone someone you actually care about and you're friends with," Stephens said afterward. "It's very difficult. I think more when I do play Madi.
"We are always very competitive. But it's a little weird. There's not as much 'come ons,' and things like that. We have a lot of respect for each other. It's a little different in that aspect. But I think we always compete well and play good matches."
Stephens battled out to a 3-1 lead in the first set, but Keys wouldn't go away easily. The two traded games the remainder of the set, allowing Stephens to seal it on her serve in the 10th game.
Stephens broke Keys to begin the second set and once again established a 3-1 lead. Stephens would break Keys again to improve her lead to 5-2 before being broken herself the next game and eventually serving out the match in the 10th game.