The World No. 1 Simona Halep will face her toughest challenge yet as she takes on the 2016 champion Garbiñe Muguruza for a chance to compete for the second straight year in the Roland Garros final.
Halep’s progress looked rocky at the start of the tournament where she dropped the first set to Alison Riske in the first round before gathering her wits about her and closing out the win, and from that point on had looked in supreme form until she got to Angelique Kerber.
The German had Halep on the ropes early on while Halep was over pushing and almost rushing her shots, but again she worked things out, and employed a more aggressive approach while still being able to make Kerber run – a feat in itself.
Meanwhile Muguruza has looked calm and focussed and is yet to drop a set. Her control and dominance over Maria Sharapova was both impressive and certainly marks her down as one of the favourites to win the competition.
In their last meeting in Cincinnati, Muguruza completely blew Halep off the court in the final, where the World No. 1 rankings was on the line for the Romanian, but that pressure is now off both of them. The top spot is on the line again, but eyes are on the bigger prize.
Halep’s only win over Muguruza was on the slicker indoor clay in Stuttgart, where she had to come from a set down to prevail. A lot has happened since that meet-up in 2015, and of course in that time Muguruza has now added two Slams to her name, while Halep has had three tries and failed.
Both are aggressive players and Muguruza comes with a powerful forehand, a no-nonsense down-the-line backhand, but she can also defend, and thanks to her earlier doubles prowess in her career, she can come in and finish effectively at the net.
What Halep can bring to the table is the ability to make her run and run and she will have to make her play the extra ball, taking her chances to finish the points aggressively when she can.
What has impressed about Halep is that she has demonstrated that she is capable of thinking out her problems on her own out there – where once her reliance on on-court coaching on the tour may have cost her the final last year, where she admitted she had not had the courage to go for her shots.
She did not panic in the quarter-final with Kerber, and she will be tested mentally by Muguruza – she cannot afford to feel rushed or get her tactics wrong this time.
Prediction: Halep in three sets.
The Roland Garros Women’s Semi-finals will take place not before 3pm (2opm BST).
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