WTA Montreal 2018 Final Preview: Simona Halep vs. Sloane Stephens

Sunday’s final in Montreal will be a rematch of this year’s French Open final as the number one seed, Simona Halep will play the number three seed, Sloane Stephens. The final will be played at 1:30pm local time in Canada (6:30pm in the UK). This post recaps Saturday’s semi-final wins for Halep and Stephens and previews what should be a fascinating final.

Saturday’s Semi-Finals

Halep was first into the final with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Ash Barty. After being 2-4 down in the third set of her first match of the week against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Halep has won her last three matches in straight sets and played especially well in the last two. Halep targeted Barty’s backhand and was never troubled by her slice. The first serve was key with 84% (!) of first serves in and 76% of points won behind it. I would have liked to see Barty come forward to the net and be more aggressive but it’s easier said than done. Halep played a great match.

Stephens scored her first top 10 win since Miami, outclassing Elina Svitolina for a 6-3 6-3 victory. Stephens looked effortless in the rallies as she moved the ball so confidently and produced some wonderful angles to open the court. Stephens was challenged in the second set, saving a string of break points at *3-1 in a game where she hit three double faults. On the whole, Stephens’s serve was more effective as she landed 68% of first serves in. Although Svitolina did get back on level terms, Stephens refocused after a chat with her coach, Kamau Murray and played the final two games brilliantly. Stephens stayed up on the baseline and often found the right time to inject pace, closing with a gorgeous cross-court backhand winner.

All in all, a solid showing from Svitolina after disappointing campaigns at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Svitolina got into the match in the second set and showed a willingness to come forward to the net. Ultimately, she spent too much of the match behind the baseline and missed a lot of returns.

Head-to-head record

Halep leads Stephens, 6-2 in their H2H and has won their last five matches including the French Open final. My recap of the final can be found HERE. Stephens’s last win against Halep came all the way back in 2013 at the Australian Open. Halep has since dominated the H2H. The French Open final was the first time that a match between Halep and Stephens has gone three sets.

Match analysis

Both players have served very well this week. Halep has won more than 70% of points behind her first serve, while Stephens has been serving at over 70% first serves in and been consistent through the four matches. The American player has also defended her second serve well, managing to win more than half the points behind it.

Halep was challenged in her first match and I always thinks that is actually favourable. Since being pushed by Pavs in the second round, Halep has improved with each match. Stephens hasn’t really been tested and her level has been consistently high from the first match, dropping just 18 games in 4 matches! Stephen’s run through has seen her tackle similar types of players with Suárez Navarro, Sevastova and Svitolina. Playing Halep will follow the same pattern. Halep will have had longer to rest for the final, while Stephens has spent much less time on court. Halep has spoken about being tired, but she has looked so strong in the last two rounds.

Their final records are interesting. Stephens hadn’t lost a final on the WTA tour before the French Open final. Halep had lost six of her last seven before the French Open final. It will be interesting to see if the French Open final result plays a part in this match as Stephens was in control up a set and a break before Halep mounted a stirring comeback.

Tough one to call as is the case with many WTA matches these days. I’m going for Sloane.

Final poll – Who you got?

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One thought on “WTA Montreal 2018 Final Preview: Simona Halep vs. Sloane Stephens

  1. Not much between them. Like’em both, but I’m also leaning towards Sloane. It is more of a home court for her. For someone speaking of being tired, Simona doesn’t really look it. Maybe more mental than physical ?? She did work hard in the first half of the season.

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