World number one Simona Halep has another chance to finally land her first Grand Slam title after beating Garbine Muguruza in the French Open semi-finals. The Romanian, 26, won 6-1 6-4 against the Spanish third seed. She will meet either US Open champion Sloane Stephens or her fellow American Madison Keys in Saturday’s final. Halep has lost three previous Grand Slam finals, including two at Roland Garros in 2014 and 2017.
The Romanian arrived in Paris as the top seed and the leading player on the WTA Tour this year, hoping this would be the moment she finally lands her first major. She further proved her credentials with a dominant, yet gutsy, win over 2016 champion Muguruza, who failed to hold serve in the first set. “I think I played one of my best matches on clay,” Halep said in a courtside interview.
One thing Halep will not want to dwell on is the fact she has won only one of her past eight finals including a defeat by Jelena Ostapenko in last year’s Roland Garros showpiece. Halep spent an hour longer on court than Muguruza in their respective quarter-finals on Wednesday, needing three sets to beat German 12th seed Angelique Kerber. By contrast, Muguruza breezed past two-time Roland Garros champion Maria Sharapova in a ruthless victory. But any thoughts those differing levels of energy burned would hinder Halep and motivate Muguruza were swiftly dismissed.
Muguruza, considered the slight favourite by many, handed her serve over in the first game with a double fault on break point and Halep raced 5-0 ahead in the opening set. Halep lost focus to allow Muguruza to claw back one break, only to break again herself to seal the first set in 36 minutes. Muguruza improved in the early stages of the second set, holding serve for the first time and backing it up with a break on her way to a 3-1 lead.
That became 4-2 before Halep broke back for 4-4 and then held serve in a 14-minute game which went to a seventh deuce and saw Muguruza blow three break points. It was a gutsy hold which proved pivotal in the match and, if Halep goes on to win the final, in her career. Halep broke to love as Muguruza wilted in the next game, sealing her third final appearance at Roland Garros and ensuring she will stay as world number one after the tournament.