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Simona Halep Streaks Into Third Roland Garros Final • Beats Muguruza

Simona Halep of Romania (R) reacts after winning against Garbine Muguruza of Spain (L) during their women’s semi final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 07 June 2018. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERG

 

 

By Richard Pagliario

 

The former champion’s ominous shadow was encroaching Simona Halep’s personal space deadlocking the second set.

 

Summoning staying power, Halep saw light down the line.

 

A resolute Halep broke Garbine Muguruza in the final game sealing a 6-1, 6-4, sweep that sent her into her third Roland Garros final and sealed her hold on the world No. 1 ranking.

 

Continuing her quest for a maiden major, the 2017 French Open finalist will face either US Open champion Sloane Stephens or 13th-seeded Madison Keys in Saturday’s final.

 

Halep has come agonizingly close to Grand Slam glory in past Paris finals. She was runner-up to Maria Sharapova in a gripping three-set final in 2014 and squandered a set and a break lead bowing to Jelena Ostapenko in the 2017 French Open final.

 

Dispatching two Grand Slam champions in succession, Halep hopes her third Paris final is the charm.

 

“I am happy that I can have another chance to play the final here in my favorite Grand Slam,” Halep said. “I will try my best.”

 

Coming off a physical three-set victory over two-time major champion Angelique Kerber yesterday, Halep needed to bring her best encountering enormous pressure today.

 

Not only was the 26-year-old Romanian playing for a spot in her third Paris final, she was up against 2016 champion Muguruza, who annihilated Halep, 6-1, 6-0, in a humbling Cincinnati final last August.

 

Simona Halep of Romania plays Garbine Muguruza of Spain during their women’s semi final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 07 June 2018. EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

Intent on shirking the label of best active player yet to master a major, Halep burst out of the blocks to a 5-0 lead in the opening set and withstood a near 14-minute game holding for a 5-4 lead in the second set.

 

A sharp Muguruza needed just 71 minutes to dismiss five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova yesterday, but the Spanish power player encountered an entirely different opponent and set of challenges in the battle for No. 1 today.

 

Continuously cracking deep drives, Halep dislodged Muguruza from the center of the court and ripped returns.

 

 

The Australian Open finalist won 16 of 26 points played on Muguruza’s second serve and converted six of 10 break points, including three consecutive breaks to open. In contrast, Muguruza cashed in on just two of eight break points and produced 14 winners, two fewer than the top seed.

 

A clash of the current and former world No. 1 players was predicated on Halep’s smooth movement, unerring precision and skill changing direction in driving the ball down the line. Varying her spins and speeds masterfully, Halep unsettled the third seed in running rallies.

 

Exploiting a double fault, Halep broke in the opening game. A stinging serve backed up her second break for 4-0 just 20 minutes into the match.

 

Blasting a backhand crosscourt, Halep broke again for 5-0 before Muguruza finally gained her bearings to get on the board breaking back at the half-hour mark.

 

On her second set point, Halep slid a forehand winner down the line snatching the 37-minute set despite serving just 40 percent.

 

Garbine Muguruza of Spain plays Simona Halep of Romania during their women’s semi final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 07 June 2018. EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

Blitzed in the opening set, Muguruza regrouped to start the second set.

 

The Wimbledon winner began attacking her serve with more authority while moving the ball around the box. Muguruza broke in the third game then stood tall through a trying test holding for a 3-1 second-set lead.

 

Throughout the match, Halep was effective hitting higher, heavier topspin shots to back Muguruza up behind the baseline then stepping in to fire flatter drives. Halep hit a high topspin forehand down the line for break point in the eighth game.

 

The shot left the Spaniard shaking her head, but she couldn’t shrug of its impact. Muguruza scattered a backhand wide as Halep broke back for 4-all.

 

Both ladies were landing strikes off the lines amping up the pace of their shots and shrieks during a fierce 13-and-a-half minute game.

 

Staring down break point, Halep sprinted right and stung a forehand down the line to save it only to spit up her second double fault of the game.

 

A calm Halep denied a second break point and hung tough for 5-4 when Muguruza stuck a return into the top of the tape.

 

Winning that skirmish propelled Halep over the finish line.

 

Cranking corner-to-corner drives she blasted through a love break completing a comprehensive 92-minute victory surging into her second Grand Slam final of the season after her Australian Open runner-up result in January.

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