5 talking points as Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens contest French Open final

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Top seed Simona Halep of Romania faces the United States’ Sloane Stephens, seeded 10th, in the final of the French Open on Saturday.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the talking points surrounding their Roland Garros showdown.

Fourth time lucky?

Wimbledon 2017 – Day Eight – The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Simona Halep is yet to win a grand slam title (Adam Davy/PA)

Demons to bury

The only way Halep can realistically put last year’s final defeat behind her is to win this one. Twelve months ago she was the tournament favourite and playing a huge underdog in the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, but somehow contrived to lose in three sets. This time around she is playing the current Flushing Meadows champion, which should focus the mind.

Slow starter

Halep’s main problem has been not starting her matches strongly enough. She dropped her first set of the tournament to Alison Riske, toiled at the beginning of her third-round match against Andrea Petkovic and lost a first‑set tie-break in the quarter-final against Angelique Kerber. But her 6-1 drubbing of Garbine Muguruza in the last four showed she can make a fast start when necessary.

Tactical battle

Both Halep and Stephens are renowned counter-punchers. Stephens played a defensive game against compatriot Madison Keys in the semi-final, letting her opponent make all the mistakes. Halep has become more aggressive as the tournament has progressed, and she will try to be more proactive with her positioning and her shot selection.

In with the new

Much of the hype in the women’s draw surrounded seasoned campaigners Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. But Williams had to pull out injured while Sharapova was pulverised by Muguruza in the quarter-final. Instead the semi-finals featured Keys, 23, Muguruza, 24, Stephens, 25 and Halep, 26. The new kids are definitely on the block in Paris.

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