| By Eric C. Peck
Halep to Meet Stephens for French Open Title

Top seeded Simona Halep advanced to the finals of the 2018 French Open Thursday, defeating Garbiñe Muguruza 6-1, 6-4.

Coming into the semifinals matchup, Halep had dropped three of her four career meetings with Muguruza, but dispatched her foe with relative ease on Thursday in just 92 minutes.

With the win, not only did Halep book her spot in the finals, but also secured her place alone at the top of the WTA Women’s Singles Rankings.

“It's always a special moment to qualify for the finals of a Grand Slam … it's a great moment, the best in your career because the Grand Slams are the most important tournaments,” said Halep. “I feel happy and good, and that everything I have done until now, the work that I put in after Melbourne and everything together, has worked out very well which is why I'm here today.”

Halep will meet American Sloan Stephens, the number 10 seed, in the finals after she moved past her fellow compatriot Madison Keys Thursday afternoon, 6-4, 6-4 in just 72 minutes.

“It's never easy playing someone from your country, let alone someone you actually care about and you're friends with,” said Stephens of Keys. “It's very difficult. I think more when I play Madi, it's just … on the court, it's very competitive. We are always very competitive, but it's a little weird. There's not as much, ‘Come-ons’ and things like that. We have a lot of respect for each other. It's a little different in that aspect. But I think we always compete well and have good matches.”

Last year, a left foot injury kept Stephens out of the French Open, but she mounted her comeback shortly thereafter and was ready for Wimbledon. At the All-England Club, she was eliminated in the opening round by Alison Riske, 2-6, 5-7.

Entering the 2017 U.S. Open with a protected ranking, Stephens defeated 2015 U.S. Open finalist Roberta Vinci in straight sets in the opening round, followed up by knocking off the 11th seed Dominika Cibulková in three sets. Her path to the finals at Flushing Meadows included wins over Ashleigh Barty, Julia Gorges, Anastasija Sevastova and Venus Williams, setting up a clash with her good friend Keys for the U.S. Open championship. She came out on top, capturing her first Grand Slam title.

Halep holds a 5-2 lifetime record over Stephens, with Halep taking the lone two wins on clay, in 2012 in Barcelona and in 2014 in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros.

“She's won plenty of tournaments,” said Stephens of Halep. “She's number one in the world for a reason. I think that I’ll just have to go out and compete. Somebody's going to win. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. Just go out, give it your all, and whoever wins, wins.”

Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck is Editor-in-Chief of Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at eric@litennismag.com