Four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova meets rising star Simona Halep Saturday for the 2014 French Open women’s title. Sharapova returns for her third straight French Open final after completing the career Slam two years ago in 2012.
The 22-year-old Halep is making her Grand Slam final debut. But the Romanian hasn’t lost a set in six matches while Sharapova has gone three sets in her last three matches.
These two finalist just played last month with the Russian winning in three in the Madrid final.
‘We played a few weeks ago, and it was a very, very tough match,” said Sharapova. “I was happy to get through that one, because we hadn’t played in a long time since then. Her level has definitely increased in the last year. With the way she’s been playing, she’s always a difficult player to play against. I think she’s playing really well. She hasn’t dropped a set this tournament.
“Despite all that, I’m in a Grand Slam final. No matter who is across the net, I feel it’s a great opportunity for the both of us. I’ll be there until the very last point.”
Halep, who was ranked outside the Top 50 a year ago, wants revenge.
“I have to take that revenge. I will fight for this one,” Halep said. “I played a really good match in Madrid first set. I started really well. I was very fast on court, and I opened the angles very well. But she came back very, very well and she hit strong, stronger than me at that moment.
“Now, I have to be aggressive again, to play fast, like my style, and to stay there with the nerves. It will be a tough moment for me. I know. I’m sure that will be. But I have to be happy and just to enjoy. I cannot say how I will feel Saturday. I cannot now. I don’t know how is it to play a final of a Grand Slam.”
 MARIA SHARAPOVA (RUS #8) vs.  SIMONA HALEP (ROU #4)
Sharapova leads all-time head-to-head 3-0
They met last month in the Madrid final with Sharapova winning 16 62 63
* Sharapova has advanced to her 9th career Grand Slam singles final, including her third consecutive final at Roland Garros.
* Sharapova would be the first Russian (male or female) to win the same Grand Slam title twice.
* Sharapova has advanced to the final by winning three consecutive matches in 3-sets. Sharapova has won 26 of her last 27 matches on clay decided in 3-sets, including 19-straight; her last 3-set loss came at 2010 Roland Garros (R16, l. Henin).
* Sharapova has dropped the opening set in three consecutive matches; she is 8-4 in 2014 when dropping the
* Sharapova is defending only one match win in the second half of the season; she lost in the second round at Wimbledon and lost her opening match at Cincinnati; she missed the remainder of the year due to a shoulder injury.
* If Sharapova wins the title at Roland Garros, she will move to No.2 on the all-time prize money earnings, passing current No.2 Venus Williams. Serena Williams owns the top spot.
* Sharapova is 36-34 during her career against Top 5 ranked opponents, including 11-7 at Grand Slams; 10 of her last 12 Top 5 wins have been on clay (other two came at 2012 WTA Finals).
* Sharapova recorded her first Top 10 win on clay at 2011 Rome; since then 12 of her last 16 Top 5 wins have been on clay.
* Halep won the 2008 Roland Garros girls’ singles title. Only 5 players have won the Roland Garros women’s
singles title after winning the Roland Garros girls’ singles title (Durr, Jausovec, Mandlikova, Capriati and Henin).
* Halep is the first woman from Romania to reach a Grand Slam final in 34 years, when Virginia Ruzici was runnerup at 1980 Roland Garros (l. Evert). Ruzici, who is currently Halep’s manager, won the title at Roland Garros in 1978.
* Halep is bidding to become the eighth different Roland Garros champion in the past eight years.
* Halep has advanced to the final without dropping a set. She is the first player to do this at a Grand Slam since Martina Hingis (1997 Australian Open) reached her first Grand Slam final without dropping a set. There have been 68 Grand Slam events played since the 1997 Australian Open. Hingis went on to win that final in straight sets (d. Pierce).
* The last woman to win the title at Roland Garros without dropping a set was Justine Henin (2007).
* Only one player born in the 1990s – male or female – has won a Grand Slam title. (Kvitova, born in 1990 won 2011 Wimbledon). Born September 27, 1991, Halep would become the second born in the 1990s – and first 1991 or later – to win a Grand Slam title.
SATURDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe Chatrier 3:00 PM Start
1. Women’s Singles – Final
Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. Simona Halep (ROU)
2. Men’s Doubles – Final
Marcel Granollers (ESP) vs. Julien Benneteau (FRA)
Marc Lopez (ESP) Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
WEATHER.COM SATURDAY PARIS FORECAST
A mix of clouds and sun. Warm. High 82F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.
WILLIAM HILL ODDS
Maria Sharapova 1.67 v Simona Halep 2.30
US TV SCHEDULE
NBC will have live coverage of the match starting at 9am ET.
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