Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Sport | By Patty Hardy

Muguruza dominates Sharapova, Halep also into French Open semifinals

Muguruza dominates Sharapova, Halep also into French Open semifinals

Simona Halep reached her third French Open final, and held on to the world number one spot, with a straight-sets victory over Garbine Muguruza.

She will play the Roland Garros final on Saturday against the victor of the match between Americans Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens.

She twice has lost in the final at Roland Garros - to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and to Jelena Ostapenko in 2017 - and was the runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open in January. It would be very unusual if I didn't write anything about her.

"I played again one of my best matches on clay", Halep said after coming back from a break down in the second set. "Every day I play better and that makes me happy". Between 2014-17, Halep went 8-5 in finals - but from Rome a year ago, she has lost six of her last seven title rounds, with the only victory coming in Shenzhen in January over Katerina Siniakova.

Muguruza's big strokes overwhelmed Maria Sharapova right from the start and their quarter-final was no contest at all in a 6-2, 6-1 one-way journey.

"It's really hard to play against a great friend, but I am pleased to be in the final for the first time", said Stephens who will rise to four in the world thanks to her deepest run in the French capital. She said she expected an intense match against Sharapova, and, in a way, it was - intensely straightforward and efficient.

"I just do what I have been doing all the days, really".

Simona Halep lost the first five games of her Roland Garros campaign this year, and has dropped two sets en route to the final - to Alison Riske in the first round and Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals.

In addition, when we look at the clay data for 2018, Halep should be a clear favourite.

Having shaken off another painful defeat, the 26-year-old will hope to go one further in Saturday's final after retaining her No. 1 ranking with a 6-1 6-4 win over the world No. 3. It wasn't just the body "absorbing all of the wear and tear", Murray said, but absorbing it "all of a sudden".

A first hold and subsequent break in the second set helped the Spaniard to 4-2 before the Romanian responded to level at four apiece.

She needed only 70 minutes to eliminate Sharapova and dominated her with superb returning, breaking the former No. 1 a half-dozen times.

"I rushed too much at the beginning", Halep told a news conference.

"Coming into this part of the year, I was losing a few first-round matches, matches that I wanted to be winning, of course", Sharapova said. "I just didn't give up".

Now she stands between Halep and her first Grand Slam trophy.

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.

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.

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