French Open 2018 Women's Final: Early Predictions for Simona Halep at Wimbledon

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2018

An emotional Simona Halep earned her first Grand Slam title at the French Open.
An emotional Simona Halep earned her first Grand Slam title at the French Open.Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

Simona Halep was under pressure as she took the court at the French Open Saturday for her championship match against American Sloane Stephens.

The Romanian star may have been the top seed in the tournament and the No. 1 player in the world, but she had failed in three previous championship opportunities in Grand Slam events.

After dropping the first set and falling behind by a break in the second, it did not appear that her fourth opportunity would be a successful one.

However, when doubt could have come flooding in and she could have been crushed by her diminishing opportunity, Halep stayed calm and continued to play her game.

While she was not hitting he ball as hard as Stephens did in the first set, her precision, court awareness and talent had an impact as she turned the match around in the second set. She was able to win it and square the match, and after a long break between the second and third sets, Halep was the dominant player.

She emerged with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Stephens and made it clear that the French Open was the Grand Slam title she wanted more than any other title.

"I think fitness was important," Halep told NBC's Mary Carillo after the match. "I pushed my limits to the maximum, and I was calm even when I was down in the second set. I believed I could do it.

"The last game was really tough on me because I couldn't breathe. But once it happened (the victory), it was just the best feeling."

Sloane Stephens figures to be a major factor at Wimbledon.
Sloane Stephens figures to be a major factor at Wimbledon.Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

Stephens was gracious in defeat but realized she had let an opportunity slip away.

"She upped her game when she needed to and I congratulate her for winning and I am happy for her," Stephens told Carillo. "She made the adjustment and I should have been more aggressive on my returns, but she earned the title."

There's no reason Halep won't be a major factor at Wimbledon in early July, the next Grand Slam championship.

While the grass surface at the All-England Tennis Club is much faster than the red clay at Roland Garros, Halep is the best player in the world and it would be a surprise if she was eliminated before the semifinals.

Stephens, the 10th seed in Paris and the 10th-ranked player in the WTA, should have a strong run at Wimbledon as well.

Caroline Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza figure to provide major challenges for Halep and Stephens, and either one of them could come away with the title.

The big question at Wimbledon will be the health of Serena Williams. She won her first three matches at the French Open and was scheduled to play Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, but a chest muscle injury kept her from playing.

If Williams can recover, she will have a chance to return to championship form.

Williams reported she withdrew because the injury prevented her from serving. She was optimistic about being able to resume playing after an initial consultation with a physician, per her Instagram account (h/t ESPN.com).

                 

Prediction

Now that Halep has her first Grand Slam title, she should be a formidable competitor in the coming major events. While she is better-suited for the slower clay courts in Paris than she is the faster grass courts in London, she will be very tough to beat.

Look for Halep to make the semifinals at Wimbledon before she faces any major issues. A championship appearance is possible, but a lack of true power could be her undoing.

Halep will make a strong showing at Wimbledon, but she will be stopped in the final or semifinals.

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