Halep Too Strong For Stephens
Published June 02, 2014 12:13
Despite her relative lack of experience in the second week of a major, Halep arrived in Paris as many people's dark horse for the title. And her chances of doing so - and of replicating the feat her manager, Virginia Ruzici, achieved at the same venue 36 years ago - have only been strengthened by the ever-lengthening casualty list.
The Turning Point
Stephens overcame a slow start to build a 3-2 lead in the opening set, but from that point her game began to slowly unravel in the face of Halep's composed point construction and endless retrieving. In the ninth game, the American won a 24-shot rally only to see Halep respond with a down-the-line backhand winner to hold on for a 5-4 lead. Moments later, the No.4 seed was helping herself to the set courtesy of another pin-point backhand.
When a Stephens backhand drifted a fraction wide to hand Halep a 3-1 lead in the second, the finish line came into view. Soon she arrived at match point, wrapping up victory at the first time of asking when Stephens miscued a forehand long.
"I'm really happy I'm in the quarterfinals for the first time in my life here because I love Paris," Halep said. "I have a lot of confidence in myself. Day by day I'm playing better and better. I love the clay here and feel very comfortable. I don't want to stop in the quarterfinals - I want to go further and I have to get ready for the next test."
Halep's only other venture this deep at a major came earlier this year at the Australian Open, where she lost to Dominika Cibulkova in two one-sided sets. Meeting her next will be Svetlana Kuznetsova who won the final fourth round encounter, against Lucie Safarova.