2018 French Open: Can Sloane d

Picture: Screenshot/Twitter

2018 French Open: Can Sloane derail Simona’s Grand Slam quest?

Should be one helluva final.

2018 French Open: Can Sloane d

Picture: Screenshot/Twitter

It would seem Simona Halep has it all.

She is the world’s top-ranked player and will remain number one no matter what happens in Paris, has been in fine form at Roland Garros and has a 5-2 head-to-head record over Sloane Stephens who she will face in Saturday’s French Open final.

But there is one gaping hole on her resume.

The Romanian is yet to win a Grand Slam despite being in the final twice at Roland Garros and once at the Australian Open.

Standing in her way is someone who has been there and done that.

Sloane Stephens. Picture: Screenshot/Twitter

Stephens won her maiden Slam at the US Open last year after returning to the tour following an almost year-long absence caused by a foot injury and then surgery. She had slumped to a world ranking of 957 just six weeks before her triumph.

The tenth-seed has nothing to lose as she continues to climb up the rankings and could prove even more dangerous on a surface she has particularly enjoyed this season despite never having won a title on it.

“Yeah, just another good opportunity. Just going to take it in (my) stride and just enjoy it and go out and compete.”

Clay might not be her thing, but converting final appearances into victories certainly is.

The 25-year-old American has a perfect 6-0 record in finals – Miami this year, the 2017 US Open, at Auckland, Acapulco and Charleston the year before while her first trophy came in 2015 in Washington DC.

This, and her ability to change from offence to defence will test Halep who lost to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapenko last year.

Despite all the expectations, Halep insists she isn’t feeling the pressure.

Simona Halep. Picture: Screenshot/Twitter

“I don’t know who said that I feel pressure. Not me, obviously. I don’t feel pressure. I feel that it’s a big challenge for me. It’s a big chance to win my dream tournament.

Halep, who took time out from preparing for the final by watching Rafael Nadal’s men’s semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro on Friday, is hoping to repeat her semifinal performance.

“But this doesn’t mean it’s going to happen or something like that. I have just to play like I did against Muguruza. So we will see what is going to happen tomorrow, but I just want to be smiling on court.

She has also chosen to dismiss the advantage she holds over Stephens based on their previous encounters.

“I don’t want to think about that because, as I said many times, it’s a different match, different situation. Both of us will be ready to give everything we have. But I believe in my chance. I believe that I have the game to win the match.”

Halep has won her last four matches against Stephens and both of their meetings on clay, including in the 2014 French Open fourth round, while the two have never played a three-set encounter.

She is bidding to become only the second Romanian woman to win a Grand Slam after 1978 French Open champion Virginia Ruzici, who is now Halep’s manager and had a special ceremony on Court Philippe Chatrier earlier this week to commemorate her victory 40 years ago.

Saturday’s French Open women’s final at a glance:

Simona Halep (ROM x1) v Sloane Stephens (USA x10)

Head-to-head: Halep leads 5-2


— The top seed is into her third French Open final and fourth overall at the majors.

— Last year, the 26-year-old Romanian squandered a set and 3-0 lead to lose the Paris title match to Ostapenko. In the 2014 final, she also lost in three sets to Sharapova. At this year’s Australian Open, she was defeated in the final by Caroline Wozniacki, again in three sets.

— When she was a teenager, Halep underwent breast reduction surgery for personal comfort and to ease her movement around the court. “I would have gone for surgery even if I hadn’t been a sportswoman,” she said.

— Halep is also a committed businesswoman. As well as buying up property, she opened her own restaurant, called ‘SH’ in her hometown of Constanta.

— Praised for her modesty on and off court, Sports Illustrated has described her as an ‘anti-diva’.


— Stephens will rise to at least number four in the world next week.

— A media darling in press conferences. In Paris, she lamented the demise of her favourite ice cream parlour on the Champs Elysees. “That is so disrespectful.”

She says: “I normally look like — I wouldn’t say a homeless person — but I look like not very presentable.”

– Additional reporting by AFP