Stephens downs Keys again to reach French Open final

Kristopher Nichols
June 9, 2018

"No expectations, no pressure", Halep said as she looked ahead to the semifinals, perhaps trying to persuade herself as much as anyone.

Halep 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. Either way, though, we look set for a thriller in Paris.

"The book was a lot about me". Although Halep leads the head-to-head match-up, this is the final of a major.

Stephens, meanwhile, produced one of the comeback stories of 2017 as she fought back from a foot injury to lift her maiden Slam title at the US Open. Stephens has now followed that up by once again defeating Keys to reach the final in Paris.

But ultimately she paid the price of 41 unforced errors as Stephens served out the match at the second time of asking, sealing victory with a backhand down the line.

Halep went from strength to strength as she controlled the match from the baseline to secure the double break by winning a fantastic point with some incredible defence.

"On paper, it's a step in the right direction", Sharapova said.

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It was her most one-sided defeat at the Grand Slam tournaments since a 6-3 6-0 loss to Victoria Azarenka in the 2012 Australian Open final.

"Another great opportunity on Saturday, and I'm really looking forward to it", said Stephens, whose late father, John, was the 1988 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with the New England Patriots. I like her chances to win her second Major on Saturday. She's going to leave her as the No. 4 player in the world and she has no points to defend at Wimbledon. "[It] shows me that I have enough patience, I have enough power inside to stay calm and just to play what I have to play against her", she said. The favorite deserves the pick here.

But she failed to convert any of those, and Halep held there, before breaking at love to end it. She made decent inroads in the tournament that turned her away past year but clearly viewed it as incremental progress after a flat, straight-sets loss to Spain's ascendant Garbine Muguruza.

The first set proved to be the undoing of Muguruza, as she failed to hold serve and allowed her opponent to open up a 5-0 lead before she hit back.

"I will play for the fans from all over the world, because I know that many are hoping me to win this Grand Slam finally".

Halep made the semi-finals for the third time by coming from behind to see of the 12th seed Angelique Kerber. She is the better overall player than Stephens, and clay just widens the margin.

The psychology of this final involved Halep desperately wanting to break her duck at the Majors and Stephens having the security of already knowing that she had one in the bank. If her mental fortitude has improved, she will prevail. I will say this, though. Some of those matches were very defining for me. If she is forced into a third, she will crumble.

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