Simona Halep battles past Garbine Muguruza to reach French Open final

Heather Diaz
June 8, 2018

She will face the victor of Thursday's all-American semifinal between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

The No. 3-seeded Muguruza had lost all three previous meetings against Sharapova, who won two of her five Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros.

The two former Paris champions had not been inconvenienced by too much tennis over the past few days - Serena Williams pulled out of her match with Sharapova while Muguruza's opponent Lesia Tsurenko lasted just two games before retiring hurt.

Simona Halep leads the head-to-head 5-2 against Sloane Stephens, including 2-0 on clay and 2-0 within the past year; all of their matches have been decided in straight sets.

Saturday's matchup is an intriguing one, because both of these players are great movers and defenders, and at the same time neither is going to serve 15 aces.

"I think there is a lot of autobiographies out in the world, especially in the sporting world, that don't necessarily speak about whether they were rivals or someone they competed against", Sharapova said.

Muguruza's last stand came at 4-all in the second set, a 13-minute game in which she held three break points. But the Romanian came out flat, finding herself on the receiving end of a tough 6-1, 6-0 defeat against last year's Wimbledon Champion. "My head won it".

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Two-time major victor Kerber raced into a 4-0 lead in the first set before having to rely on a tiebreak to nudge her ahead.

"You finally found the secret, how to play a great first set today", a reporter said to her in the post-match press conference. Oh, and she gets to stay as world No.1, whatever happens. "And you know, win or lose, I think that allows you to be calm". Stephens won that one, as well as the only other match the longtime friends, Fed Cup and Olympic teammates have played against each other.

The World No 3 tightened up her service games, and continued to cause Halep some problems on her own serve.

The No. 1 ranking, which Halep first secured late last season, is now deeply secondary to her goal of winning her first Grand Slam title. Particularly against Stosur and Sharapova, the 24-year-old was terrific and although she disagrees, Muguruza feels like the favourite coming into the semi-finals based on her clinical displays so far.

"She was playing incredible right away, and I think I should have done something a little bit better to not let it go so fast". In the victory, Muguruza won 72 percent of her first serve points and 46 percent of her second serve points. Muguruza has yet to drop a set this tournament and is forcing many unforced errors from her opponent due to being aggressive and hitting the ball deep.

A nervous start from the Spaniard was immediately pounced upon by Halep for a break in the opening game. Over the last two sets, Halep made 16 unforced errors, half as many as Kerber, who was treated for a blister on her left foot early in the third.

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