Starting with one of the most wide-open fields in recent memory, the women at Roland Garros have been whittled down to just two, which, after all the talk of surprises, has left us with a firm sense of familiarity.
In Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep, we have two of the leading lights of the WTA Tour, albeit having taken very different paths to get there. One was the surprise package of 2017, emerging from the depths of injury-driven obscurity to become a major champion, the other a top-3 mainstay, her hands on everything except the crown.
Now they face off in a match that promises action and drama aplenty. Read on for our preview of the 2018 Roland Garros Women’s Final.
Play starts at 3pm CEST
Simona Halep (ROU)  v Sloane Stephens (USA) 
As it has been for some time now, the stakes for Simona Halep are simple: win, and any questions regarding her standing at the top of the sport go away. No longer can she be branded a “choker” or “placeholder no. 1”, and given her superior consistency to every other woman on tour, a win here might just pave the way for a few more majors as well.
Already having climbed her Everest last year, the downside of a Stephens loss is definitely not as severe, but the upside is similarly huge. With a win the 25-year-old would become the first non-Williams American to hold multiple majors since Jennifer Capriati in 2001, vaulting her from mere star to superstar status in the world’s biggest market, and giving Serena Williams serious cause to look over her shoulder.
Despite enduring some first-week stumbles, both Halep (lost her first set of the tournament 2-6 to Alison Riske) and Stephens (won 8-6 in her 3R match against Camila Giorgi) come into this match in superb form. Facing off in the semis against Garbine Muguruza and Madison Keys respectively, Halep and Stephens were equally impressive in recording comfortable straight-set victories that saw them outplay their heavier-hitting opponents. That said, given Halep has played two major titlists already in Muguruza and Angelique Kerber, it’s fair to suggest she comes into this one slightly more tested.
For as much as it is Halep that is trying to get what Stephens has got, the Romanian has historically dominated her opponent, winning five of their seven matches, with her last loss coming in 2013. That said, Stephens has been a different player ever since New York last year, and in her current iteration Halep should expect a serious run for her money.
Two of the harder players to classify on the tour, Halep and Stephens both play a game that can best be described as “defense with plenty of offense”. Neither woman is going to blow a player off the court, but they’re not simply trying to wear them down, either. As able as they are to stay back and absorb pressure, they’re always looking to out-manoeuvre their opponents, and that makes them liable to turn a point on its head in one shot, either through counter-punching their way out of trouble or creating their own pace off the forehand wing. With that in mind, expect multiple rallies that make use of every inch of the court, but also your fair share of lines painted.
With the similarities between the two, execution on those 50-50 balls will be key, but beyond that, it’s each player’s ability to manage points with their backhand that will prove decisive. In particular, the onus is on Stephens to be more consistent with her backhand under pressure, as while Halep can hold steadfast under attack on that side, American tends to either go for broke or cede further control of the point, which is particularly problematic on clay.
Halep in three. Having spent the past year inching her way closer to grand slam glory, the time is now for the Romanian. Stephens will offer some stiff resistance, but Halep has been through enough adversity on this big a stage to know what to do by now, and on this surface, with her form, the 2018 women’s title at Roland Garros is hers for the taking.