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Sloane steady wins the race for Stephens

09 Juin 2018

Top seed Simona Halep insisted that she "doesn't feel pressure" ahead of her third French Open final on Saturday, where she will face American Sloane Stephens. "I've had issues with the right pectoral muscle to the point where I can't serve", said the 36-year-old after withdrawing from the match. Muguruza won the French Open in 2016, then Wimbledon a year ago.

Sloane Stephens beat compatriot and friend Madison Keys 6-4, 6-4 to become the first American woman other than Venus or Serena Williams to reach the French Open final since Jennifer Capriati in 2001.

The Romanian has a superior head-to-head advantage, winning five of their seven battles - including winning all four of their last encounters.

She played magnificently and powerfully to see off the challenge of Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals, and is a natural on clay. The reference to her book seemed rather irrelevant given the one-sided nature of yesterday's match - Sharapova won only three games. Her outlook in general resembles that of someone who is playing with house money.

Halep went all out in the first set but her bold strategy backfired badly as she hit 30 unforced errors.

It's testament to the world No. 1 how she continues to get up after being knocked down and the romantics will be convinced that her time will come on Saturday. "There's not as much, "Come ons" and things like that". Three-time Grand Slam runner-up Halep now is the only thing standing between Stephens and a second major crown. "Like I said, you have to just take your opportunities when you get them, and it's just match by match, basically".

It will be the third time Halep has contested the final at Roland Garros having lost the 2014 final to Maria Sharapova and last year's final to Jelena Ostapenko.

Stephens defeated Keys in straight sets when she won the US Open last September. It would be very unusual, I think, if I didn't write anything about her.

"I will be I think more confident because I have a lot of experience", she said after booking her place in this year's final with a 6-1 6-4 win over world number three Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza is 3-0 in career grand slam semifinal matches.

The second set followed a similar pattern as Keys lost her first service game, although there was brief hope for the 13th seed when she broke for the first time when Stephens was serving for the match at 5-2.

"It's really tough to get any ball by her, but especially today, she was neutralizing so well". Like a year ago, I feel Halep will make an excellent start to the match but when it gets tight, she might just falter. "If I do that, I will be OK after the match, no matter the result".

"When you're writing an autobiography, I don't think there is any reason to write anything that's not true", Sharapova said. It would be very odd, I think, if I didn't write anything about her. Now I just have to go find her, because I need to tell her some juicy stuff.

Muguruza has not dropped a set so far in this year's tournament as she seeks a second championship in Paris and third major trophy overall. Halep is a [1.44] favourite, with Stephens the underdog, at a current [3.25].

Sloane steady wins the race for Stephens