Wednesday, April 25, 2018
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.

Comments
Q&A with Bucs tackle Donovan Smith: On bowling, charity work, team expectations

Q&A with Bucs tackle Donovan Smith: On bowling, charity work, team expectations

Bucs tackle Donovan Smith has a big season ahead, going into a contract year as part of a reshuffled offensive line. Still only 24, he has started all 48 games in his three NFL seasons, and has made it a priority in the offseason to be more active in...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Springstead baseball isnít easing into districts

Springstead baseball isnít easing into districts

SPRING HILL — With the high school baseball regular season ending this week, some teams like to dial down their schedule in preparation for district play.Springstead is more than happy to be doing the opposite. With two games against HomeTeam t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

TAMPA – This is the Rubiks Cube of NFL drafts. It can be twisted and turned it in any direction. Not many know how everything will line up.For the Bucs, the puzzle is simple.  Since they have the No. 7 overall pick, they need four quarterb...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A bittersweet farewell for Rams baseball

A bittersweet farewell for Rams baseball

NEW PORT RICHEY — This week alone, Larry Beets has bid farewell to two longtime homes.He and wife Donna, who are transitioning to a villa at Tampa Bay Golf & Country Club, are completing the sale of the Hudson house they shared for nearly a hal...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

We've linked to a lot of mock drafts over the last four months.We went back and assembled mocks from 40 different NFL writers we've linked to — this isn't the most recent for some of these who are in Mock 9.0 mode, but it's meant as an unscient...
Updated: 2 hours ago
College commissionís plea to NBA: Bring back prep-to-pros

College commissionís plea to NBA: Bring back prep-to-pros

NEW YORK — The commission proposing reforms to college basketball wants 18-year-olds to be eligible again for the NBA draft, and the NBA Players Association would make that deal today.Change will take longer than that.NBA Commissioner Adam Silv...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Commission calls for more NCAA oversight of AAU events

Commission calls for more NCAA oversight of AAU events

Every July, Las Vegas becomes the epicenter of elite youth basketball. Hundreds of top-level AAU teams descend upon Sin City during the summer evaluation windows for college coaches, playing games at dozens of sites across the city.The Commission on ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
College basketball commission wants NCAA to regulate agents

College basketball commission wants NCAA to regulate agents

RALEIGH, N.C.  — With agent conduct part of the federal corruption investigation into college basketball, the commission charged with finding reforms wants the NCAA to actively monitor agents and provide regulated ways for them to advise a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The case for the Bucs and NFL draft prospect Derwin James

The case for the Bucs and NFL draft prospect Derwin James

The best weapon against the NFL's evolving offenses, Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher said, is a defender who can do it all — someone who can cover a tight end, shadow a receiver or blitz the backfield."The way the game is played now on defense," Fishe...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Hit parade? More of a pitching parade for Land OíLakes

Hit parade? More of a pitching parade for Land OíLakes

LAND O'LAKES — Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Land O'Lakes High School baseball pitchers have compiled a team earned-run average of 1.37, a stunningly good number."It's funny, because that might be our batting average at...
Updated: 6 hours ago