Friday, June 6, 2014

Women's final not such a surprise, despite many predictions

If ever there were two women who looked and acted like they were going for the title at Roland Garros, those women would be Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep. As Todd, at WTA Backspin, pointed out a few weeks ago, the Madrid final very well may have been the "preview" for the French Open final, and so it was. Sharapova has made clay her "home" surface, and the Romanian-born Halep, who--like Sharapova--is good on every surface, has always felt at home on clay.

I wrote that I thought that Halep, Li, Sharapova, and Williams were the only players I could see truly competing for the trophy. Two were the victims of early upsets, and the other two will compete tomorrow for La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

Naturally, Serena Williams' victory in Rome made her look even more like the French Open champion than she was already touted to be, and a Serena Williams final wouldn't have been anything shocking. But for all her success in Rome, Williams has been somewhat "out of sorts" lately. Not only that--some the rising stars on the tour have metaphorically laced up their Believe shoes, and are playing fearlessly. Garbine Muguruza couldn't sustain her upset show to get past both Williams and Sharapova, but she got past one of them. Eugenie Bouchard made it all the way to the semifinals and came close to advancing even farther.

Sharapova, who has already won the event once, can fight like nobody's business. Her tight three sets against Sam Stosur, Muguruza and Bouchard were shows in themselves.

And then there's Simona Halep. She makes it look so easy, with her elegant sliding, her always-on-the move stretchy body, and her ability to make it appear that she has a laser beam built into her racket, finding angles to the quarter-inch. Halep is a joy to watch, and she knows how to conserve her energy. She lost to Sharapova in Madrid, after winning the first set 6-1. She has yet to drop a set in Paris, which is a good thing. On the other hand, she's never been to a major final before, and that can be daunting.

One way or the other, I'm expecting a good match. These two are fighters.

Here are the fighters' paths to the French Open final:

round 1: def. Ksenia Pervak
round 2: def. Tsvetana Pironkova
round 3: def. Paula Ormaechea
round of 16: def. Sam Stosur (19)
quarterfinals: def. Garbine Muguruza
semifinals: def. Genie Bouchard (18)

round 1: def. Alisa Kleybanova
round 2: def. Heather Watson
round 3: def. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor
round of 16: def. Sloane Stephens (15)
quarterfinals: def. Svetlana Kuznetsova (27)
semifinals: def. Andrea Petkovic (28)

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