Romania's Simona Halep has advanced to the French Open final.
Romania's Simona Halep has advanced to the French Open final.

Halep not scarred by Grand Slam defeats

SIMONA Halep insists she is not scarred by the traumas of three grand slam final defeats, vowing to erase the memories before tackling Sloane Stephens in the French Open decider.

Elated at securing the world No.1 ranking with a comprehensive 6-1 6-4 semi-final victory over Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Halep intends to block out lingering negativity over performances at the tail end of majors.

The Romanian has lost Roland Garros finals to Maria Sharapova and Jelena Ostapenko as well as January's Australian Open decider to Caroline Wozniacki.

But she is optimistic she can capitalise on an established superiority over Stephens - she leads the rivalry 5-2 - in a watershed encounter.

"For sure I will let it go [memories of grand slam final defeats], and I will not think about Saturday's match," she said.

"Of course, like I said, it's a big opportunity, it's a big chance, but you never know.

"So I lost three times until now and no one died, so it will be OK.

"But I will be, I think, more confident, because I have a lot of experience. But in tennis, you never know, so I will stay chill.

Simona Halep is hoping to win her first grand slam title on Saturday in Paris.
Simona Halep is hoping to win her first grand slam title on Saturday in Paris.

"So it's going to be a tough one. Of course it's the final of grand slam, so it cannot be easy.

"I will focus on myself, like I did every match here.

"And I will try just to be calm during the match and try everything I can. Because it's a nice opportunity, a big challenge, so I have just to feel happy after the match that I gave everything."

Halep has not lost to Stephens in five years, winning the pair's past four encounters in straight sets.

Their only encounter on clay - at grand slam level - resulted in a 6-4 6-3 margin for Halep in the fourth round her in 2014.

The win pushed Simona Halep to the world number one ranking.
The win pushed Simona Halep to the world number one ranking.

Stephens is a vastly improved player over the past eight months, having returned from serious injury.

She shoved aside compatriot Madison Keys 6-4 6-4 in a rematch of the Flushing Meadows final in September on Thursday and is typically candid when assessing the Halep challenge.

"She's (Halep) won plenty of tournaments. She's No.1 in the world for a reason," the American said.

"I think that we'll just have to go out and compete.

Simona Halep and coach Darren Cahill take a break in Paris.
Simona Halep and coach Darren Cahill take a break in Paris.

"Somebody's going to win. Someone has to win. Someone has to lose. Just go out, give it your all, and whoever wins, wins.

"I think for myself I'll just have a good game plan and just try to execute the best I can when I go out there.

"It's just mainly about competing. No one is going to hand you the match. It's a grand slam final.

"You have to go out there and get after it and make sure you play every point and try to execute your game plan as best as possible."

Once accused of laziness, Stephens is rapidly emerging as Serena Williams' successor.

Sloane Stephens fires a backhand.  Picture: Getty
Sloane Stephens fires a backhand. Picture: Getty

"I think I worked really hard coming back and getting in the gym, and when I was chubby trying to get skinny and when I was out of shape getting back in shape," she said.

"Like, I have recognised more things I have needed to do.

"So when I have gotten in shape and done all the things that my coach asked me to do, I just put it into the universe, like 'God, look what I did, help a sister out.'

"The beginning of the year I was injured. Didn't have a good result in Australia, and I knew that I needed to change some things, and I did that and I had a great result in Miami.

"I had a great showing at Fed Cup, which I was really happy with.

Simona Halep is hoping to win her first grand slam title on Saturday in Paris.
Simona Halep is hoping to win her first grand slam title on Saturday in Paris.

"I had OK results this clay court season. I lost to some great players - (Karolina) Pliskova, (Caroline) Garcia.

"It's not really anything to put your head down about."

Overcoming a cramped schedule compromised by rain, the remarkable Halep single-mindedly hunted down her sixth victory in eight days.

Coached by Darren Cahill, Halep will bid to provide the South Australian with his third grand slam champion.

The US Open semi-finalist already has already established a glittering reputation as a world class mentor, guiding both Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt to grand slam victories and the world No 1 ranking.



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