Having breezed through the rounds so far, with an improved attitude not to mention a little swagger, the sudden change in weather conditions threatened to blight Simona Halep’s chances. After all – had she not mentioned that the heavy conditions at the ‘Drench Open’ after torrential downpours scuppered her in the fourth round of Roland Garros?
“Last year, yeah, was pretty tough and the ball was like this (demonstrating how they had fluffed up like tennis-ball coloured puffer-fish). Against Sam [Stosur] I couldn’t do much.”
With the workmen hurriedly applied more top dressing on Saturday morning, before another bout of stormy weather, which delayed the start of their semi-final for another half an hour – the signs were looking as bleak as the angry looking clouds above.
We need not have feared – Halep came storming out of the gates with an immediate break as it took Kiki Bertens a couple of games to find her feet. When the Dutchwoman did break back, Halep responded quickly as the pair continued to play cat and mouse for the first set.
Bertens certainly was not going to make things simple for Halep. Up a break she pressured Bertens with no less than five set points, all squandered as last year’s French Open semi-finalist hung on, and went on to break Halep.
Again the Romanian stepped up her game, broke and served out the first set to love. From that point on it was cruise control as Halep jumped out to a 4-0 lead, while Bertens struggled to stay even remotely on terms. Halep delivered the final blow with a break.
She said, after the match: “I was very confident that we will finish today. Was more difficult when I saw at 4-1 that it’s raining. I said, Not now, please. But, you know, I cannot change anything. So I just stayed there and I was patient. And the rain stopped
“Was big difference, because in French Open was raining all the time when we played. So we started actually the match and was raining. I don’t believe that it’s a good thing. But, no, is much different. I mean, the ball in French Open was very heavy. The court was wet. Here the court was perfect. I cannot compare.”
“On clay Muguruza is dangerous. She won French Open last year. I played few times against her. On clay I think I beat her. She beat me on hard.
“I expect a tough one. It’s final, come on. It will be very difficult. You know, I believe that I have my chance even if they are confident, very confident now.
“I am confident, too, so I have my chance. For sure, I will not give up. I will go through the match and I will fight for every ball.”
Elina Svitolina  def. Garbiñe Muguruza 4-1 RET
Things seemed to be going so well on so many quarters on Saturday. The murky weather that saw some great storms on Friday and Saturday morning was replaced by weather far more suitable for those hardy souls venturing out from under the stadium in the morning downpour.
Muguruza may well have felt like it was a downpour. First she finished late last night and having treatment (her leg had been strapped through the match) her press conference had been pushed back and back, before Friday’s storm had everyone running for cover – away from the stadium.
She held her first service game fairly solidly but then after first a long game where she lost her serve on the third break point, and failed to convert tw of her own in the next, the doctor was called – at which point she retired.
Coming into press, she explained: “I went to the warm-up, and I was hitting with the sparring, and he started serving, big serves and stuff, and I was trying to return, and on the return, I hit it and then I’m, like, Sam, I can’t move my neck. So I couldn’t really move my neck to this side.
“In the warm-up, I didn’t serve, because I’m like, I can’t serve. So then I’m, like — I didn’t know what to do, because I couldn’t really serve in there.
“But I’m, like, I’m going to go on the court. I’m going to try, you know what, maybe I can serve slower or something. I didn’t want to leave Rome without giving a shot, you know.”
The fact that it was completely unrelated to the injury she appeared to be carrying on Friday night seemed to escape Svitolina too.
She said: “No. I mean, I saw the tape. I thought this was… but if it’s neck, yeah, I hope she recovers, seriously. Because is the worst thing when you get injured for a tennis player, because you work every day. Every single day you give 100% and then try to get better, and one small injury can just ruin everything. It’s very sad.”
She continued: “It will be important to recover quickly and to go straight into the final mode, because I was not expecting today this kind of day. Was really preparing for long match and long day.
“I went to train maybe half an hour more after, to do some things which I thought that I need to work on. But in the end, for me, it’s good that I didn’t spend so much energy, you know, like so much that can really tired me mentally. So I think I will be fine.”
Halep v Svitolina – H2H: Halep leads 2-0
This will be their first match up on clay, but Halep will surely come into the match with a lot of confidence. Halep has been a revelation since Miami where she has shaken up her attitude and the results have obviously come her way.
Yet there are a lot of matches in those legs at the moment, so does she have enough left in the tank to pull off the win?
On the other side of the net will be a player returning to the Top 10, and who is at the moment leading the WTA Porsche Race to Singapore. Her consistency this year has kept her within contention of some big wins. Having ended the year reaching the Zhuhai final, she started the strongly, reaching the Taipei final, winning Dubai and Istanbul and now is in a fourth final this year.
Halep has won 14 of her last 15 matches on this surface, and showed that she can deal with the adjustments needed if the weather makes things a little heavier. She has proved to be back to her determined run-down-everything self, and with both players having an aggressive style – it might come down to the margins of serve and court coverage.
Prediction: Halep in three sets.
Halep & Svitolina are scheduled on Centrale at 1pm (12pm BST).
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