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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

French Open final: 'A lot of emotions' for Sloane Stephens as American closes in second major trophy

Stephens, who completed scarcely believable return from injury by winning last year's US Open, on cusp of winning another title

Sloane Stephens beat fellow American Madison Keys in the semi-finals of the French Open on Thursday. Christophe Simon / AFP
Sloane Stephens beat fellow American Madison Keys in the semi-finals of the French Open on Thursday. Christophe Simon / AFP

Around this time last year Sloane Stephens was ranked 957 in the world, but on Saturday she could become a double grand slam winner.

The American had been sidelined for 11 months with a foot injury which required surgery and left her unable to walk for 16 weeks. Yet Stephens completed a scarcely believable return from injury by winning last year's US Open, becoming only the fifth unseeded woman to win a major singles title in the open era.

Now seeded 10, Stephens will take on Romania's Simona Halep in the French Open final looking for an upset again.

"After not playing for 11 months, I've had some great results," she said. "Obviously a lot of hard work went into it, a lot of adversity, a lot of ups and downs. A lot of emotion, wondering am I ever going to be the same? Am I ever going to play good again at a high enough level? Am I a protected ranking?

"I think now I've matured a little bit and have recognised the opportunities when they have been presented. The most important thing is that I have taken those opportunities."

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Standing in her way is Halep, the world No 1 who is yet to claim a grand slam title of her own. Halep, 26, has come up short in two French Open finals as well as at this year's Australian Open.

A 6-1, 6-4 demolition of Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza in the semi-final suggested Halep is more than ready to break her duck. And she claims she will be under no pressure when she steps out at Roland Garros.

"I don't know who said that I feel pressure. Not me, obviously. I don't feel pressure," Halep said. "I feel that it's a big challenge for me. It's a big chance to win my dream tournament.

"But this doesn't mean it's going to happen or something like that. It's a normal match I play against these opponents.

"So we will see what is going to happen, but I just want to be smiling on court."

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