The final of the 2014 French Open Ladies Singles Championship is all set for Saturday between Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep.
Sharapova took a set longer than I had expected to defeat the talented Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, which was bad news for my 2-0 bet, and although Genie played well Maria could have won that one in two if she’d taken her opportunities.
The final takes place on Chatrier on Saturday afternoon and the start will be all-important for both of these ladies.
Maria Sharapova 1.65 vs Simona Halep 2.60
This will be the fourth meeting between these two stars of the women’s game and as ever it’s on the racquet of the attacking Russian against the more measured approach of the diminutive Romanian.
Maria has won all three previous matches between the pair, with the latest coming in quicker clay conditions at altitude in Madrid a few weeks prior to this tournament.
Halep won the opening set of that particular clash comfortably, as Sharapova was unable to find the court and any mistakes that Maria does make will be gratefully accepted by the more consistent Halep.
I seem to recall tipping Halep to win a set in that match and I can’t see her doing any better this time around, as nerves are bound to play a much bigger part here in her first Grand Slam final than in that Premier level match, a level she’s played at and won at before.
I’ve seen signs in Simona that suggest to me that she would get very nervous if the winning post came in sight, as she chucked in three double faults under no pressure at all when serving out her quarter-final against Sveta Kuznetsova and she also wobbled in the final set against Andrea Petkovic on Thursday.
Had Petkovic actually managed to find a first serve in that breaker we would probably have gone three in that one and Simona’s lack of tough, tight matches here could well count against her on Saturday.
Maria turned that Madrid final around with power and I get the feeling that if and when Sharapova finds her range in this final Halep won’t be able to live with her, but the Russian may have to do it the hard way, as she’s been doing for the last few matches here.
Sharapova, who will move up the rankings to number five if she wins the tournament, has had to dig deep against Garbine Muguruza, Sam Stosur and Bouchard after a double bagel thumping of Paula Ormaechea, and it’s been her desire that’s been her trump card this fortnight rather than a high level of tennis.
Halep, who win or lose will be the new world number three on Monday, has enjoyed a much more comfortable passage to the final, with only Sloane Stephens as a top-20 ranked opponent, and she’s tended to struggle against the best power hitters in the game.
A 0-7 record against Serena Williams, Vika Azarenka and Sharapova says a lot and her game, which is based on great movement and excellent defending, combined with accurate hitting off both wings, isn’t enough at the very top of the game.
It will be if Maria has an off day and Sharapova will have to be very careful with this opponent, but I expect her desire and powerful game to prove too much for Simona by the end of the match.
Certainly if it comes down to a battle of wills, I don’t see how it’s possible for anyone to have more desire than Sharapova, while Halep is, as yet, unproven in a situation like this.
The set betting hasn’t been kind over the last few days, with the right winner but wrong set score being the issue, and with Maria’s level varying wildly from set to set the outright win on her looks the one.
Back Sharapova to beat Halep at 1.65