Halep eyes chance to break ma­jor drought

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

‘‘I will try my best,’’ Halep said, ‘‘and hope­fully I will be bet­ter than last year.’’

The Ro­ma­nian also came up one vic­tory shy of a ma­jor cham­pi­onship at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, beaten there by Caro­line Woz­ni­acki.

That means to­mor­row’s fi­nal will be Halep’s third ti­tle match in the past five Grand Slam tour­na­ments.

‘‘I’m happy,’’ she said, have an­other chance.’’

The 10th-seeded Stephens had never made it past the fourth round in Paris un­til now. Af­ter sit­ting out nearly a year be­cause of an in­jured right foot that needed surgery in Jan­uary 2017, she has soared up the rank­ings and made it to her sec­ond ma­jor fi­nal in the past ninth months. ‘‘that I can

‘‘An­other great op­por­tu­nity, and I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to it,’’ said Stephens.

She im­proved to 3-0 against her long­time pal and Fed Cup team-mate Keys, in­clud­ing their US Open fi­nal last Septem­ber.

Like Halep, Stephens is an in­cred­i­bly tal­ented de­fen­sive player, and she kept stretch­ing points un­til Keys would err. In all, Keys made 41 un­forced er­rors, 30 more than Stephens.

Mugu­ruza, a two-time ma­jor cham­pion, en­tered the semi­fi­nals hav­ing not lost a set in the tour­na­ment.

But it took her quite a while to get go­ing against Halep, who man­aged to keep send­ing ball af­ter ball back over the net.

Backed by fans who loudly chanted her first name be­tween games, Halep went ahead 3-0 in only 15 min­utes with the help of only one win­ner. Of her first 14 points, 13 ar­rived via er­rors by Mugu­ruza – nine un­forced, four forced.

The sec­ond set was more of a test for Halep, who was ahead by a set and 3-0 be­fore fall­ing apart against Ostapenko a year ago. Mugu­ruza’s last stand came at 4-all in the sec­ond set, a 13-minute game in which she held three break points. But she failed to con­vert any of those, and Halep held there, be­fore break­ing at love to end it.

In two rain-interrupted men’s quar­ter­fi­nals, No 1 Rafael Nadal com­pleted a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 come­back over 11th-seeded Diego Schwartz­man, and No 5 Juan Martin del Potro de­feated No 3 Marin Cilic 7-6 (5) 5-7 6-3 7-5.

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