Halep sets up Sharapova Paris showdown

Simona Halep became the first Romanian woman to reach a Grand Slam final in 34 years Thursday when she beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) to set-up a French Open title clash against Maria Sharapova.

The 22-year-old fourth seed swept to victory in 90 minutes.

The last Romanian in a final at a major was Halep’s manager Virginia Ruzici, who was champion at Roland Garros in 1978 and then finished runner-up two years later to Chris Evert.

The former world junior number one had never previously got beyond the second round in Paris, but the woman voted the most improved player of 2013 has raced through the tournament without losing a set.

Despite her higher ranking, Halep will start as the outsider against seventh seed Sharapova in Saturday’s final.

The Russian is in her third Roland Garros championship match having won the title in 2012 and holds a 3-0 winning record over Halep although the Romanian pushed her to three sets in the Madrid claycourt final earlier this year.

“It’s very emotional to win and reach my first Grand Slam final,” said Halep.

“Andrea’s a great player but I think I was a little bit stronger. I tried my best and did everything I could to win the match.”

She knows she will have to step up her performance against four-time major winner Sharapova who made the final for the third year in succession with a three-set win over Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard.

“In Madrid I took the first set. I played my style and was aggressive. But then I played too far behind the baseline so I will need to open up the court.”

On Thursday, she was 4-1 ahead in just 14 minutes courtesy of two breaks of the German 28th seed who was also playing in her first major semi-final.

Halep fired three aces in the opener and allowed the 26-year-old German just seven points off her serve.

Petkovic briefly rallied with a break to lead 3-1 in the second set but then handed the advantage straight back to the speedy Halep.

The German was finally undone in the tiebreak when Halep wrapped up the semi-final with a sweeping, running forehand.

Petkovic, who spent two and a half hours more on court than Halep getting to this stage, can still reflect on a successful tournament.

The former world number nine was ranked at 177 in March last year after battling a series of knee and back injuries and failed to get out of qualifying for the 2013 Roland Garros event.


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