FRENCH OPEN FINAL PREVIEW

by Karen and Patrick

At the start of the French Open, the Spin team indicated that there were 4 women who had the chance to hold up this trophy.  Defending Champion Serena Williams (knocked out in the first round), 2012 champion and 2013 finalist Maria Sharapova, 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic and 4th seeded and 2013 Madrid finalist Simona Halep.  A lot of people thought we were mad not to include Australian Open champion Li Na, former USO champion and former French Open finalist, Sam Stosur as well as many other women who had shown their clay court prowess in the lead up tournaments.  Truth will usually out and this year’s finalists are both worthy to be at the tail end of this prestiguious tournament.

As we have done in the past both Patrick and I will take one of the ladies and predict who we think will lift the Coupe de Suzanne Lenglen on  Saturday.  

Simona Halep (Getty Image) 
I am going with Simona Halep.

Simona Halep is a tennis player’s player. Compact, sturdily built, moves fluidly on this surface.  There are no extraneous things going on with her game.  She sees the ball, hits the ball, finishes the point.  What are her strengths?  I am not going to go into some deep dark analysis of Halep’s game.  For that I will leave it to the experts.  However, whenever I see her play, I am reminded of another player who while I may not have liked her personality, I absolutely loved watching her play, and that is Justine Henin.  Halep plays with deceptive power and speed.  She is not afraid to go for her shots and the good thing about her is that you have no idea when she will go for her kill shots, whether it is the backhand down the line or the forehand up the line.  It could be on the return of serve or during a long rally.

When Halep played Sharapova in Madrid, she had numerous chances to take control of the match and win it in the third set, but she took her foot off the pedal and ended up losing that match.  I don’t think this will happen this time around.  This is her first Grand Slam final.  I recall another player who made her first and now only Grand Slam final, again against Sharapova and won it in fine style.  There is also another player who made a Grand Slam final and in her debut, again against Sharapova and again she won it in fine style.  Both Kvitova and Azarenka played their games.  Yes, it was on faster surfaces (Wimbledon and the Australian Open respectively), but both women after very nervy starts, settled in and played their game.  If Halep wants to be the third woman to win her first Grand Slam title in her first final, she will have to play her game.  She can’t get involved with what is happening on the other side of the net.  She has to put that head to head against Sharapova out of her mind.  She has been playing very well and has not dropped a set all tournament.  I look for that to continue in Saturday’s final.  Halep in straight sets.  Over to you Patrick 

Maria Sharapova 
My pick for the French Open title is Maria Sharapova

Path to final: Ksenia Pervak, Tsvetana Pironkova, Paula Ormaechea, Samantha Stosur, Garbine Muguruza and Eugenie Bouchard

Sharapova’s path to a second French Open title was a breeze in the first week losing only 10 games capped off by a double bagel against Ormaechea. However, she has had a rough second week rallying from a set deficit in three consecutive matches to win. In all three matches, she had to win crucial points from 3-4 against Stosur, 5-all against Muguruza and 5-all against Bouchard.  For all the double faults and unforced errors, Sharapova refuses to make them at critical points in the match. Sharapova has won her last 19 three set matches on clay with her last loss being to Justine Henin at the 2010 French Open. Since the start of 2012, Sharapova has won 53 out of 57 clay court matches with three of the losses going to Serena Williams. At one point, Sharapova had won 47 consecutive matches on clay to players other than S Williams which was stopped by Ana Ivanovic in Rome.

Prediction: Sharapova to win her second French Open title (5th Slam overall) as her experience and toughness will be too much for Simona Halep.