Thursday, June 7, 2018

Stephens, Halep to meet for French Open title

   This one was more competitive.
   But not much.
   In a rematch of last year's U.S. Open final, Sloane Stephens beat fellow American and close friend Madison Keys 6-4, 6-4 in 78 minutes today to reach her first French Open final. 
   Stephens, a 25-year-old Fresno product seeded 10th, served for the second set at 5-2 in the first all-American women's semifinal at Roland Garros since Serena Williams defeated Jennifer Capriati in 2002.
   Stephens will face top-ranked Simona Halep, who outclassed third seed and 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-4. Muguruza would have replaced Halep at No. 1 with a victory.
   In only her fifth tournament since undergoing foot surgery, Stephens trounced Keys 6-3, 6-0 to win the U.S. Open last September in the first Grand Slam final for both players. Keys, 23, has yet to win a set against Stephens in three career matches.
   Stephens, who's 6-0 in tour-level finals, will attempt to become the first U.S. woman other than Williams to win the French Open since Capriati in 2001. Regardless of the outcome Saturday (6 a.m. PDT on NBC), Stephens will rise to at least a career-high No. 4 on Monday and become the first American woman in the top five other than Venus or Serena Williams since Lindsay Davenport in 2006.
   Halep, meanwhile, will try to avenge a heartbreaking loss in last year's final at Roland Garros. The Romanian led Jelena Ostapenko by a set and 3-0 with three break points for 4-0 before losing to the 20-year-old upstart, who had never won a tour-level title.
   Halep is 0-3 in Grand Slam singles finals. She also lost to Maria Sharapova in the 2014 French Open and to Caroline Wozniacki in this year's Australian Open, both times 6-4 in the third set.
   Halep is 5-2 (2-0 on clay) against Stephens, including a 6-4, 6-3 victory in the fourth round of the 2014 French Open.
   In the completion of two men's quarterfinals suspended by rain on Tuesday, No. 1 seed and 10-time champion Rafael Nadal beat No. 11 Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, and No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro topped No. 3 Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 in a matchup of former U.S. Open champions.
   Del Potro, who almost quit tennis after undergoing four wrist operations in recent years, reached his first French Open semifinal in nine years.
   In Friday's semifinals, No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria is scheduled to meet unseeded Marco Cecchinato of Italy at 4 a.m. PDT, followed by Nadal vs. Del Potro not before 6:30 a.m. Coverage begins at 3 a.m. on Tennis Channel and continues at 8 a.m. on NBC and NBCSN. Tennis Channel will replay the men's semis beginning at 11 a.m.
   Nadal, who turned 32 on Sunday, is 9-5 (3-0 on clay, including a walkover) against Del Potro, who will turn 30 in September.
   Thiem, 24, and Cecchinato, 25, have split two career matches, both on hard courts and most recently in 2014.
   Thiem seeks his first berth in a Grand Slam final in his third consecutive French Open semifinal. Cecchinato, ranked 72nd, was 0-4 in the main draw of Grand Slam tournaments before this year's French Open. He received an 18-month suspension in 2016 for match fixing that was overturned on appeal.
   In today's mixed doubles final, No. 2 seeds Latisha (formerly Yung-jan) Chan of Taiwan and Ivan Dodig of Croatia edged No. 1 Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Mate Pavic of Croatia 6-1, 6-7 (5) [10-8].

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