Everything you need to know as the French Open champion is decided in the final match of the second Grand Slam of the year, played at 3pm on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Alex Macpherson
June 8, 2018

LEARNING

Simona Halep leads the head-to-head 5-2 against Sloane Stephens, including 2-0 on clay and 2-0 within the past year; all of their matches have been decided in straight sets. The Romanian won their first meeting 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of Barcelona 2012; Stephens responded with two emphatic victories in the following year's Australian swing, 6-4, 6-0 in Hobart and 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of Melbourne - the latter of which paved the way to Stephens' maiden Grand Slam semifinal run. In 2014, Halep defeated Stephens 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round of Roland Garros en route to her own major semifinal - and final - debut, and pulled ahead in Miami 2015 6-1, 7-5. Last year, Halep also beat Stephens twice on US hard courts - 7-6(3), 6-0 in Washington, DC and 6-2, 6-1 in Cincinnati, two weeks before Stephens would win her first Slam title at the US Open.

This is the second Romanian-American Grand Slam final of the Open Era. The first was also at Roland Garros in 1980, when Chris Evert defeated Virginia Ruzici 6-0, 6-3. Halep would be the first Romanian major champion since Ruzici - who is now her agent - won the 1978 French Open.

Simona Halep is the fourth player in the Open Era to play a Grand Slam final having previously lost three. Helena Sukova lost the 1993 US Open to Stefanie Graf 6-3, 6-3, and would not reach another major final; Jana Novotna won Wimbledon 1998 over Nathalia Tauziat 6-4, 7-6(2); and while Kim Clijsters lost the 2004 Australian Open to Justine Henin 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, she would go on to win her next four Slam finals.

Sloane Stephens has never lost a professional final, coming into today's match with an immaculate 6-0 record in title rounds. The American has only lost one set in a final ever - en route to a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5(5) win over Dominika Cibulkova to win Acapulco 2016.

Simona Halep has an overall 16-14 record in Tour finals. The World No.1 lost her first three between 2010-12, and then won her next seven in 2013-14 as she rocketed into the Top 10. Between 2014-17, Halep went 8-5 in finals - but from Rome last year, she has lost six of her last seven title rounds, with the only victory coming in Shenzhen in January over Katerina Siniakova.

Simona Halep lost the first five games of her Roland Garros campaign this year, and has dropped two sets en route to the final - to Alison Riske in the first round and Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. Sloane Stephens has dropped one set, in the third round to Camila Giorgi - who served for the match twice, but fell 4-6, 6-1, 8-6.

Both finalists are previous Roland Garros junior champions. Simona Halep won the girls' singles title in 2008 in an all-Romanian final over Elena Bogdan 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-2, while Sloane Stephens took the girls' doubles crown in 2010, partnering Timea Babos to beat Lara Arruabarrena and María-Teresa Torró-Flor 6-2, 6-3.

Sloane Stephens, Timea Babos, María-Teresa Torró-Flor, Lara Arruabarrena - Roland Garros 2010 - Getty
2010 Roland Garros girls' doubles champions Sloane Stephens and Timea Babos with runners-up María-Teresa Torró-Flor and Lara Arruabarrena (Getty)

Simona Halep is the sixth No.1 seed to reach the Roland Garros final this century. On three of those occasions, the top seed took the title - Justine Henin over Ana Ivanovic in 2007, Serena Williams over Maria Sharapova in 2013 and Williams over Lucie Safarova in 2015. But twice, the No.1 seed fell at the final hurdle: Dinara Safina to Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009 and Williams to Garbiñe Muguruza in 2016.

Sloane Stephens is the second No.10 seed to reach the final in the Open Era, following Justine Henin in 2005 - who took the title 6-1, 6-1 over No.21 seed Mary Pierce.

If Sloane Stephens takes the title, it would mark the third consecutive year that Roland Garros is also the champion's first red clay trophy at any level following Garbiñe Muguruza in 2016 and Jelena Ostapenko in 2017. However, Stephens has won a title on green clay - Charleston 2016.

This is the eighth Roland Garros final of the Open Era that pits a Slamless player against a one-Slam holder. On four previous occasions, the proven champion doubled their haul of major titles: Hana Mandlikova over Sylvia Hanika in 1981, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario over Mary Pierce in 1994, Jennifer Capriati over Kim Clijsters in 2001 and Svetlana Kuznetsova over Dinara Safina in 2009. Three times, though, there was a new Slam titlist: Virginia Ruzici over Mima Jausovec in 1978, Iva Majoli over Martina Hingis in 1997 and Li Na over Francesca Schiavone in 2011. The Kuznetsova/Safina final also contains a parallel to today's match in that a previous US Open champion faced a player who had been a Slam runner-up on multiple occasions before.

Over the past year, Sloane Stephens has reached two Grand Slam finals (winning at least one at the US Open) - but lost in the first round of the other two, to Alison Riske at Wimbledon and Zhang Shuai at the Australian Open. The last player to have two Slam finals and two Slam first-round losses on her 12-month record was Elena Dementieva, who was the Roland Garros and US Open runner-up in 2004 - but lost in the first round in Melbourne to Jelena Jankovic and Wimbledon to Sandra Kleinova.

Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's match, Simona Halep is guaranteed to retain her World No.1 ranking while Sloane Stephens will rise six places to a career high of World No.4 - the first American to crack the Top 5 since Jennifer Capriati in February 2001.

In the junior event, 14-year-old Cori Gauff defeated Canada's Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 and 16-year-old Catherine McNally saved a match point to overcome Poland's Iga Swiatek 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 to set up the second straight all-American girls' final in Paris, following Whitney Osuigwe's victory over Claire Liu last year. It is already Gauff's second Slam final following last year's US Open, where she lost to another American in Amanda Anisimova; she has compiled a 22-7 record in juniors since debuting at Wimbledon last year, and two weeks ago played her first pro event at the ITF $25,000 in Osprey, Florida - where she qualified and beat World No.417 Alexandra Perper before falling to Katerina Stewart in the second round. McNally, the World No.679, already has a win in senior Slam qualifying to her name: as a qualifying wildcard into the US Open last year, McNally defeated Polina Monova 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 before losing to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

TRENDING

#walktall @dc10s 👊🏼

A post shared by Simona Halep (@simonahalep) on

READING

The versatility of Sloane Stephens' game means that she is as capable of winning any given point with defence as with aggression - and she pairs this with a "Zen-calm court presence", writes Gerald Marzorati for the New Yorker.

Simona Halep has "walked over the coals" to reach this point, writes Matt Zemek at Tennis With An Accent - both weighed down by her previous Slam final losses and facing adversity on court this year - but this could work to her advantage in the final. Meanwhile, Joel Drucker at tennis.com praises the "faith" Halep has shown in her game. However, Martina Navratilova emphasizes that it will still be necessary for the Romanian to get "out of her comfort zone" to win, in the former World No.1's exclusive column for wtatennis.com.

WATCHING

Ahead of the French Open, Simona Halep and coach Darren Cahill sat down with wtatennis.com to talk about being World No.1 and her performances this season. The Romanian's 'Road to Roland Garros' could end in triumph on Saturday.