Saturday, June 09, 2018

2018 FRENCH OPEN: Women's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Simona Halep (ROU) [1] vs Sloane Stephens (USA) [10]
Here is my predictions post for the women's final at the 2018 French Open. Last year I incorrectly predicted that Simona Halep would defeat Jelena Ostapenko. This year I correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals2 of 2 women's semifinals, 2 of 2 men's semifinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals.


Simona Halep (ROU) [1] dGarbiñe Muguruza (ESP) [3] 6-1 6-4.  This was expected to be a tough 3-setter but the World #1 ran away with the first set, doing to Muguruza what she did to Sharapova in her quarterfinal match. The second set was far more competitive, with Muguruza earning an early break but then was unable to maintain the advantage to the end of the set and was broken in the 8th game. The key turning point of the match was the epic 9th game with Halep serving. Muguruza had multiple breakpoints but was unable to convert, despite the fact Halep was missing more than two-thirds of her first serves. However eventually (after 13 minutes) she was able to hold and serving to stay in the match Muguruza faded quickly, succumbing to a love break to lose the set and the match.

Sloane Stephens (USA) [10] d. Madison Keys (USA) [13] 6-4 6-4This was a closer match than their match at the 2017 US Open final, because this time Madison could actually control some of her emotions and was able to show the hard-hitting tennis that makes her one of the most feared opponents on the WTA tour. But her good friend Sloane, who is just two years older (25 instead of 23) appears to be more than 2 year more mature than Madison and this shows in how they treat big matches. Sloane has only lost 1 set in her 6 tour finals she has appeared in, while Madison has only won 3 titles. Despite all that the match score line ended up being relatively close, even if the result of the match never felt much in doubt primarily due to the lack of unforced errors coming off the Sloane racquet compared to the large number Madison was hitting.


For the second time in the last three major tournaments both of these players will be appearing in their secod major final. Sloane at  the 2017 US Open while Halep's was at the 2018 Australian Open. (Halep is also appearing in her 3rd Roland-Garros final). Sloane is definitely the mentally tougher of the two, sporting a perfect 6-0 in WTA tour finals while Halep has a less than stellar 16-14 record in finals. However the two have played 7 times before and Halep leads 5-2. Interestingly, most pundits seem to be giving Stephens the edge in this match up but I'm not so sure. I'll be happy with either player winning, but I think I would be happier if Halep were to finally get that inaugural slam win and cement her standing at the top of the women's game. After all, if she loses her first four major finals that may start reducing the belief that she will actually win one of these eventually. Last year Halep was the prohibitive favorite against Jelena Ostapenko and played like it for a set and a half but when thing started to get tight Halep crumbled and lost after being up a set and a break ahead. I do believe she has learned from these experiences and the fact that Sloane is a known quantity should assist Halep in treating this like a regular tour match, in which case she would win easily. The problem is that it's not just a tour match and as the end of the match approaches I think Halep will have even more difficulty handling the pressure. However, with all that being said, I still give her the edge to (finally) win her first major title. PREDICTION: Halep. 

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