In a draw that has been littered with shocks and members of the WTA new generation making their presence known, we are left with a fantastic showpiece featuring the world numbers four and eight, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova. The Roland Garros final will be a repeat of the Madrid final, which was played four weeks ago. So much has been said (including by myself) in terms of Madrid not being the most solid indicator for Roland Garros because the conditions are so different, yet here we are with a repeat final. In truth, it probably has more to do with the fact that Sharapova and Halep are two of the best WTA players on clay.
Sharapova’s route through the draw has been pretty treacherous; after cruising through her first three matches of the tournament including a double bagel demolition of Paula Ormaechea in the third round, Maria has been pushed to three sets in her last three matches. More noteworthy is that she has come from a set down in all three matches and lost no more than two games in the deciding set. Her victory over Sam Stosur looked to be the clincher. From 6-3 *4-4 down, she won eight consecutive games, putting in a magnificent display in the third set and a feisty celebration that signaled she meant business; however Maria was severely tested in her quarter-final and semi-final matches with Garbine Muguruza and Eugenie Bouchard, and teetered on the edge of defeat in both matches. She started slow, especially against Muguruza, and struggled on serve hitting a combined 17 double faults in her last two matches.
Halep’s passage could not have been any different to Sharapova’s. She hasn’t lost a set on her march into a first Grand Slam final. In the semi-finals, she defeated Andrea Petkovic, 6-2 7-6(4). The last few games of that match were high quality and there were some great rallies. Halep held her nerve tremendously well in the second set tiebreak. Although she hasn’t had a particularly testing draw, she has still had to navigate herself past some tricky opponents in Sloane Stephens (R4) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (QF). All week, she has looked calm, composed and assured, and in complete control of her game. She has been breaking new ground constantly having never made it past the second round of the French Open before, but she hasn’t looked phased by any of it.
The final should be a fitting conclusion to what has been a great Roland Garros for the women. There have been some excellent matches and it is refreshing to have seen some competitive matches later on in the tournament. Sharapova has won all three previous matches against Halep including that final in Madrid, which she won, 1-6 6-2 6-3. When Sharapova was struggling for rhythm, Halep sweeped up beautifully in the first set; however when Sharapova was on the money, Halep really didn’t have any answers. This will be Halep’s first Grand Slam final. It is impossible to gauge how she will react to the situation because players respond differently. She will obviously be nervous, but whether that has a significant impact on her game won’t be known until the match kicks off.
Personally, i’d love, love, LOVE to see Simona prevail. Sharapova though is such a tremendous competitor and she has cemented that even more throughout this tournament. At times she has looked incredibly ropey, but her sheer grit and determination has got her into the final. Halep can hit plentiful winners off both wings, but whether she can do that consistently against Maria, I have my doubts. Simona will have to be aggressive to win. Playing consistently may get her a set, but to win the title she will need to be dynamic and take chances…
Prediction: Sharapova d. Halep in 3 sets