Saturday, June 07, 2014

2014 FRENCH OPEN: Women's Final Preview

Maria Sharapova (RUS) [7] vs Simona Halep (ROU) [4]

The 2014 French Open women's final will be between Maria Sharapova of Russia and Simona Halep  of Romania. Last year I correctly predicted Serena Williams would beat Sharapova in the final. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals, 2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 4women's quarterfinals and 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals. Here are my predictions for the women's singles championship match at Roland Garros this year.

How Did They Get Here? Women's Semifinals Review
Maria Sharapova (RUS) [7] dEugenie Bouchard (CAN) [18] 4-6 7-5 6-2. For the third match in a row in this year's tournament, Maria Sharapova had to come back from a set down in order to reach victory. She did it against Sam Stosur in the 4th round (winning the deciding set 6-0), against Garbine Muguruza (winning the decider 6-1) and then against Bouchard, who put up the most resistance. If Bouchard plays the way she played against Sharapova on regular tour-level matches she will soon be permanently ensconced in the WTA Top 10. The key to this match was the second set, where Sharapova blew a 5-2 lead, managing to double fault on not one but three set points. She eventually won the set on an error from Bouchard, who had failed to capitalize on the momentum gained from getting back to even to score an advantage in the set. The third set was actually a bit closer than the 6-2 score indicaes, but basically Sharapova started moving better so that her groundstrokes were heavier which drew far more errors from the young Canadian. This (unlike the Stosur match, and possibly the Muguruza one) was not a match that Sharapova's opponent lost, it was one that Sharapova reached out and grabbed.

Simona Halep (ROU) [4] d. Andrea Petkovic (GER) [28] 6-2 7-6(4) . Halep simply has too much game for a great athlete like Petkovic to handle. Clay court tennis rewards the better mover in most match-ups (though overwhelming advantages in firepower can change that inequality, c.f. Petkovic's win over Sara Errani in the quarterfinal 6-2 6-2). The tournament's remaining top seed ran away with the first set in under 25 minutes and was cruising in the second when she got tight and Petkovic got loose and a very competitive set ensued. But as the score revealed, Halep was still a little bit better when it really counted. It would have been useful to see Halep play a 3rd set in an important match. The very fact that she has won all 6 rounds in straight sets may harm her chances against Sharapova, because Halep does not have the familiarity with adversity that Sharapova has and may not know how to respond.

Who Will Win? Women's Final Preview
Not surprisingly the two have met recently, in the final of Madrid, and the result was a 3-set win by Sharapova after being blown out 1-6 in the first set. I think Halep will learn from that experience and acquit herself well in her first major final. But it is a very tough ask to expect a first-timer to win against Sharapova. Petra Kvitova did it at Wimbledon in 2011 so it has happened before, and my heart would be gladdened if it happened here, but my head says it won't.

Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova in 3 sets.

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