Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Women's final: from 6-2 to 5-6, to grunts vs. shh

Five things to look for in the today's French Open women's final:

SHARAPOVA VS. HALEP: Maria Sharapova has the edge in experience against Simona Halep, having already won four Grand Slam titles and participated in four other finals. And who would have thought Sharapova might wind up with two trophies on the red clay of Roland Garros before getting a second at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open or Australian Open? This will be the 27-year-old's third consecutive French final, having won the title in 2012, then losing to Serena Williams a year ago. Halep, meanwhile, was 1-4 for her career at Roland Garros until these two weeks.

HALEP'S FIRST FINAL: The fourth-seeded Halep is trying to become the second woman from Romania to win a Slam title (the first, 1978 French Open champ Virginia Ruzici, is Halep's manager). Halep, 22, never had been past the quarters at any Slam until now, although she has been on the rise, winning seven titles over the past two seasons and rising from No. 57 in the rankings 12 months ago. "Her level has definitely increased in the last year," Sharapova said. Still, even Halep acknowledged that controlling her nerves is vital. "It will be a tough moment for me," she said.

SERVING HIGHS AND LOWS: Sharapova reworked her service motion after having surgery on her right shoulder in 2008, and that stroke confounds her to this day. While beating Eugenie Bouchard in the semis, Sharapova hit nine double faults. She had eight in the quarters. But when Sharapova can get that part of her game to work, it can put an opponent on her heels. Down the stretch against Bouchard, Sharapova won each of her last five service games, never facing so much as one break point.

CONTRASTS: The two finalists offer all sorts of contrasts. Their heights, for one: Sharapova is 6-2; Halep is 5-6. And while there is nothing subtle about Sharapova — from her powerful groundstrokes at the baseline to her shot-accompanying shrieks to her success-accompanying fist shakes and yells of "Come on!" — Halep plays a quieter style. She causes problems by finding tough angles, changing speeds and getting to nearly every ball. Halep has said in the past that her ability move around the court improved after having breast-reduction surgery five years ago — a procedure Halep said she would have had even if she weren't an athlete.

3 SETS? The last French women's final to go the distance was 2001, when Jennifer Capriati edged Kim Clijsters 12-10 in the third. If that happens today, Sharapova's got quite a track record: She has won 19 three-setters in a row on clay, including her last three matches in Paris, each after dropping the first set. Halep is 8-1 this year in three-set matches, although none at Roland Garros.

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