PARIS — World No. 1 Simona Halep is into the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the third time in her last five appearances and is set to take on third-ranked Garbine Muguruza, who won the title here in 2016.
Halep booked her spot in the semis with a hard-fought 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2 victory over Angelique Kerber, while Muguruza stormed in the the last-four without dropping a set, taking out Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-1 in 70 minutes on Wednesday.
It sets up a marquee semi-final between two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza and three-time major runner-up Halep.
Muguruza had a 0-3 record heading into her quarter-final with Sharapova but they hadn’t played since 2014, before the Spaniard experienced success at the Slams.
Halep and Kerber played arguably the best match of the season thus far at the Australian Open earlier this year and their quarter-final on Wednesday — in heavy damp conditions — also did not disappoint.
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID
Halep on why she celebrated her win against Kerber by pointing her finger to her head:
“It was really about the mental. And also physical, for sure, but mental I was strong. And after losing that set, when I came back it was a little bit tough, but I stayed there. I stayed focused. I never gave up. So I think that’s why I won today. My head won it.”
Halep on how she balances staying relaxed during the Slams while also being intense on the court:
“The experience. I think it’s really important, and so many years I played at this level. Now it feels normal a little bit. Feels like I’m used to it. Of course it’s special every time to play a semis in Grand Slam. Here also in Paris, I like this place, so I feel good. I feel cool. And I’m expecting tomorrow a tough one, but I’m expecting also to give everything I have again to take my chance.”
Halep on the challenge of facing Muguruza:
“She’s playing fast with everyone. So doesn’t matter who is playing against. She does her game. So I have just to stay strong, to try to make her uncomfortable on court, and to try to play my game. It’s not many things, like, to discuss about this match. It’s a style that has everything. She’s a great player. She was in this position. She won this tournament. So tomorrow is going to be a big challenge for me.”
Muguruza on gaining experience at the Slams:
“Well, maybe before I was holding more my breath. Now I just find moments to enjoy, moments to be serious, moments to train. You know, I kind of learned with experience, you know, as always, how to manage these long tournaments better. I think, yeah, I’m doing it more and more.”
Muguruza on whether she feels like a favourite against Halep in this semi-final:
“I don’t feel I’m favourite for this match, because she’s played better than I have this year. She loves clay. She loves Roland Garros. She’s shown it. It’s a great match. It’s a great semi-finals. I’m motivated, and that’s it. That’s all.”
TOP SPOT ON THE LINE
The winner of this Halep-Muguruza clash will not only reach the Roland Garros final but will walk away with the world No. 1 spot when the tournament wraps up. Muguruza is not too preoccupied about the prospect of unseating Halep from the summit.
“I heard about it just now that the one who wins will be No. 1. But I don’t give it too much attention,” said Muguruza, who held the top spot for four weeks last season. “In the past few years, I used to take this into account, and I shouldn’t have taken it so much to heart. So now I don’t have it in mind constantly. If I make it all, it’s very well. Otherwise, there will be more opportunities.”
HISTORY ON MUGURUZA’S SIDE
The Spaniard is 3-1 head-to-head against Halep, with their last meeting being a 6-1, 6-0 victory for Muguruza in the Cincinnati final in 2017. Halep won their only previous encounter on clay though, in Stuttgart in 2015.
Muguruza has been ruthless this tournament, dropping just 20 games en route to the semis. She lost her serve five times but it’s worth noting that Halep has created a whopping number of 60 break points on her opponents’ serve this fortnight.
PRESSURE’S ON HALEP
Halep insisted in her press conference that there is no pressure on her shoulders entering this semi-final but the fact remains that the Romanian is chasing a maiden Grand Slam title and will be itching to erase the painful memories from her defeat in last year’s final. For Muguruza, she’s been sailing through and playing freely, in a manner that makes it seem like a third major trophy for her would be a mere bonus.
STEPPING UP AT THE SLAMS
Muguruza’s ability to flip a switch and elevate her level at the majors continues to baffle. Since the start of her title run at Roland Garros in 2016, Muguruza has posted a 32-6 (84.2%) record in Grand Slam matches.
By contrast her win-loss numbers away from the majors are 55-35 (61.1%).
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