Halep tops Muguruza, eyes first major title

Top seed Simona Halep fought back to triumph in a bruising French Open quarter-final against Germany's Angelique Kerber and stand two wins away from her first Grand Slam title. Stephens closed in on her second Grand Slam title by beating pal Madison Keys 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday in the first all-American semifinal at the French Open since 2002.

Slam chance: Simona Halep celebrates her semi-final win over Garbine Muguruza. She lost both of the previous ones in three sets, to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and to Jelena Ostapenko in 2017.

But it took Muguruza quite a while to get going against Halep, who managed to keep sending ball after ball back over the net.

Halep, who assured herself of retaining the No. 1 ranking with the victory, earned a fourth chance to win her first major title. For Stephens, winning her second in five months.

Backed by fans who loudly chanted her first name between games, Halep went ahead 3-0 with the help of only one victor. After sitting out almost a year because of surgery on her right foot in January 2017, she has soared up the rankings and now made it to her second major final in the past nine months.

Keys appears to have made more progress in her clay game than any of her semifinal peers, perhaps because she's had the most room to grow. I think I have to put a lot of things in perspective for the last, what, four, five weeks since the clay season.

"I lost three times until now and no one died", Halep said, "so it will be OK". "I think that we'll just have to go out and compete".

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She is one of two semi-finalists - alongside Garbine Muguruza - who are yet to drop a set this fortnight in Paris.

"I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon", Sharapova wrote in the book.

Muguruza, considered the slight favourite by many, handed her serve over in the first game with a double fault on break point and Halep raced 5-0 ahead in the opening set. I think she's clear on who she's playing. Muguruza won 58 percent of her return points and broke six times in her quarterfinal victory. Some of this is X's and O's; Sloane makes you hit the extra ball and has played terrific tennis in the matches, and Keys has missed too much.

"Yes, well, I thought that after nine years I will play a different one, not Rafa or Roger", said del Potro, otherwise so deliriously happy that he described "thoughts that are deeper maybe that shook my legs a little bit more".

After racing through the first set, Halep saved three break points in a marathon ninth game of the second which lasted 13 minutes.

"I don't know that I would call the hard road", Murray said.

Thoroughly and clinically outplayed by Muguruza in every respect, Sharapova looked uncomfortable and off-balance for most of her brief stint on court and had a particularly deflating second set in which she logged two winners to 15 unforced errors.

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