Tennis: Halep to meet Sharapova in final

Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates winning the semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Canada's Eugenie Bouchard at the Roland Garros stadium. Photo / AP
Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates winning the semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Canada's Eugenie Bouchard at the Roland Garros stadium. Photo / AP

Simona Halep became the first Romanian woman to reach a grand slam tennis final in 34 years on Thursday when she beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2 7-6 (7-4) to set-up a French Open title clash against Maria Sharapova.

The 22-year-old fourth seed swept to victory in 90 minutes.

The last Romanian in a final at a major was Halep's manager Virginia Ruzici, who was champion at Roland Garros in 1978 and then finished runner-up two years later to Chris Evert.

The former world junior number one had never previously gone beyond the second round in Paris, but the woman voted the most improved player of 2013 has raced through the tournament without losing a set.

Despite her higher ranking, Halep will start as the outsider against seventh seed Sharapova in Saturday's final.

The Russian is in her third Roland Garros championship match having won the title in 2012 and holds a 3-0 winning record over Halep although the Romanian pushed her to three sets in the Madrid claycourt final earlier this year.

"It's very emotional to win and reach my first grand slam final," said Halep.

"Andrea's a great player but I think I was a little bit stronger. I tried my best and did everything I could to win the match."

She knows she will have to step up her performance against four-time major winner Sharapova who made the final for the third year in succession with a three-set win over Canada's Eugenie Bouchard 4-6 7-5 6-2 in a match full of beefy baseline shot-making.

It was the 19th time in a row that the never-say-die Sharapova had won a three-set match on clay, dating back to a loss against Justine Henin at Roland Garros in 2010.

For the fast-rising Bouchard, it represents the second time she has reached a grand slam semi-final, after this year's Australian Open, and the second time she has failed to go a step further, having lost to eventual champion Li Na in Melbourne.

"She played an unbelievable match. Her level was extremely high today and I am just fortunate to be the winner," Sharapova said.

"I would prefer to win in two sets, but she started so well. It was tough losing the first set, but that's not when the match is over."

AFP gjw

-AAP

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