Sharapova comes into the matchup as the favorite because she is a previous winner at Roland Garros, but there are few players on earth carrying as much momentum as Halep.
The resulting matchup will be worthy of the championship stage.
Here is the schedule for Saturday’s women’s final at the 2014 French Open and the keys to victory for each participant.
|Player 1||Player 2||Court||Predicted Winner|
|Simona Halep||vs.||Maria Sharapova||Court Chatrier||Halep|
|Date||Time (ET)||Round||Watch||Live Stream|
|June 7||9 a.m. to 1 p.m.||Women’s final||NBC||NBC Live Extra|
Sources: RolandGarros.com and SI.com
*Live stream via NBC Live Extra.
Halep’s Key to Victory
At just 22 years old, Halep is playing in the first Grand Slam final of her career. While the stage may be too big for other players, Halep has dominated her challengers thus far and has not dropped a set at Roland Garros this year.
There is no validity to the claim that Halep didn’t earn her way to the final, especially after No. 15 seed Sloane Stephens, No. 27 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 28 seed Andrea Petkovic all fell in straight sets.
As great as Halep has performed, ESPN’s tennis Twitter account talked about Sharapova’s overall edge over the No. 4 seed:
Halep has focused on improving her serve, but the key on Saturday against Sharapova will be keeping her opponent off the baseline. Using her strong forehand and her unmatched backhand, Halep will have to continue threading the ball down the line.
If Halep can hit the ball into open space and get Sharapova running, the Romanian player will be able to withstand the Russian’s surge and walk away with her first career major victory.
Sharapova’s Key to Victory
As a two-time champion at Roland Garros, Sharapova knows what it takes to win at the French Open. It wasn’t always easy for Sharapova, but she has reached the final three years running.
Sharapova ran through top stars like No. 19 seed Samantha Stosur, Garbine Muguruza (the woman who defeated No. 1 seed Serena Williams) and No. 18 seed Eugenie Bouchard en route to the berth in the final.
When asked about her hard-fought victory in the semifinal against Bouchard, Sharapova told Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated about her tenacity and willingness to grind out victories:
When you're forced to be in those situations when you're either not playing well or you find yourself in a losing position, I just don't want to give up, because I work too hard to just let a match go. You put so much effort in to get to this position. If some things are not working out, I don't just want to quit in the middle. Because when you lose the first set or a few games or you're down a break, that's not the end of the match. That's the type of philosophy that I play with.
While Halep will try her best to push Sharapova from the baseline using her return, the Russian star will be focusing on not backing up or running to the net too much and forcing the pressure back onto her challenger.
If Sharapova can overpower Halep on the serve, the Romanian player will have to back off her baseline, and that will open up the court for Sharapova to be the more dominant player.
Add in her experience, and Sharapova will give Halep a serious test.
Predicted Final Score: Halep wins, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
*Stats via RolandGarros.com.