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08 June 2018, 05:10 | Anna Jefferson
Maria Sharapova is a value underdog against Garbine Muguruza today
Stephens beat her fellow American and great friend Madison Keys 6-4 6-4 in a repeat of last year's US Open final.
Halep, still in the hunt for her first Grand Slam title after numerous near-misses, booked her place in Saturday's final with an impressive 6-1, 6-4 victory over the 2016 champion.
"There is no point to be sad about what happened in Rome, because now it doesn't really matter", Muguruza concluded her pre-tournament press conference - and has been tearing up the Parisian clay with steely determination since. Someone has to lose. "I just didn't give up".
Sharapova, who missed the 2016 tournament because of a doping ban and a year ago after she was refused a wild card, was broken 6 times, committed 27 unforced errors and won just 5 points on her own serve in the second set. "She's the favourite", said Muguruza. But it's a little weird. "So to come out of these weeks and feel fairly healthy is a great thing".
World number one Halep made a slow start, misfiring on her first serve and spraying her groundstrokes wide early on in a duel that lasted more than two hours, before steadily wearing down her opponent. The Romanian broke Muguruza's serve six times in a ruthless display to set up Saturday's final against U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens. Virginia Ruzici won that title in 1978. Keys predicted, "I'm going to have to be the one to try to open up the court and go for my shots".
"I think I played one of my best matches on clay", Halep told reporters after Thursday's win.
But it took Muguruza quite a while to get going against Halep, who managed to keep sending ball after ball back over the net. Nadal was serving for the second set at 5-3, 30-15, when another shower came and action was halted for the day. She won on her first match point with a backhand victor down the line.
Here's another key category in which Muguruza has the upper hand: 2-0 in major championships. Halep saved two match points to win that one. She said she expected an intense match against Sharapova, and, in a way, it was - intensely straightforward and efficient. And it's always tough against her. But she fell apart and eventually lost to the unseeded Latvian in her second French Open final. Halep is a three-time runner-up at majors, including in Paris in 2014 and 2017.
"I think there is a lot of autobiographies out in the world, especially in the sporting world, that don't necessarily speak about whether they were rivals or someone they competed against".
In short, the market has been convinced that Halep is the better player throughout this event, but yet has ditched her for this particular match-up, and it's hard to understand why. Muguruza hopes to make her fourth career grand slam final and her second career French Open final.
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