World number one Simona Halep gets a fourth chance to finally win a Grand Slam title when she starts as favourite in the French Open final against American Sloane Stephens on Saturday.
The 26-year-old has pedigree on clay, knows what it feels like to step out on Court Philippe Chatrier to contest the title match and holds a 5-2 winning record over Stephens. She is also playing arguably the best tennis of her career.
There is one major sticking point though, Halep has always fallen just short when the big prizes have been tantalisingly within reach — twice in the French Open final and also in this year’s Australian Open final. Tenth seed Stephens, the first American not called Williams to reach the Roland Garros final since Jennifer Capriati in 2001, by contrast has a perfect record in Grand Slam finals having beaten friend Madison Keys to win last year’s U.S. Open.
Romanian Halep’s best chance came last year when she was a set and 3-0 ahead against unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, only to suffer a heartbreaking defeat.
In Australia in January she ran out of gas on a steamy Melbourne night against Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki but after a relatively comfortable passage through the Paris draw, she will be firing on all cylinders this time