Sat, Jun 09, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Stephens to play Halep for second Grand Slam title


When the French Open final was played a year ago, Sloane Stephens was nowhere near Roland Garros. She was in Chicago with coach Kamau Murray, working her way back from a foot injury that sidelined her for 11 months.

“Indoors on a hard court. Getting ready for grass. Barely walking. Playing tennis next to a bunch of five and six-year-old screaming kids,” Murray said. “So to be here from there, I think, is rewarding, because those times were not easy.”

The times are good now. Stephens on Thursday closed in on her second Grand Slam title by beating pal Madison Keys 6-4, 6-4 in the first all-American semi-final at the French Open since 2002. It also was a rematch of the US Open final won by Stephens in September last year.

“It’s always hard playing someone from your country and such a good friend, so I was really pleased to be able to get through that,” Stephens said.

Stephens’ opponent in today’s final is to be Simona Halep, who emphatically ended the impressive French Open run of 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-4.

Halep, who assured herself of retaining the No. 1 ranking with the victory, earned a fourth chance to win her first major title.

She twice has lost in the final at Roland Garros and was the runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open in January.

“I lost three times until now and no one died, so it will be OK,” Halep said.

Muguruza at the start of the semi-finals had not lost a set in the tournament.

However, it took Muguruza quite a while to get going against Halep, who managed to keep sending ball after ball back over the net.

While Halep sometimes has trouble with so much on the line, Stephens has been perfect in title matches, going 6-0.

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