PARIS, June 8 (Reuters) - ‘Not finished’, Simona Halep quipped when asked to reflect on her French Open campaign after handling Czech Karolina Pliskova’s power to reach her second final at Roland Garros.
She is never finished.
Halep’s poise, tactical skills and refusal to concede on every single point made the difference as she prevailed 6-4 3-6 6-3 to set up a date with Jelena Ostapenko, the 20-year-old Latvian daredevil who goes for the throat on every ball she hits.
The Romanian’s resilience does not just show on court.
Hampered by an ankle injury in the lead-up to the French Open, where she finished runner-up in 2014, Halep would not consider skipping the tournament.
“I was scared but I refused to accept that I could not play, so I recovered faster mentally and I really wanted to be here,” she said.
“Did not matter what the scan showed.”
On Court Philippe Chatrier, it did not matter that in the second set, second seed Pliskova sprayed the court with finely-angled forehands to send her chasing.
“She’s putting everything back,” Pliskova said.
“She reads the game pretty well, she moves very well so it is tough to make winners against her.”
Pliskova, who is not a claycourt expert, played her best match of the tournament, but it was not enough to subdue Halep, whose never-say-die attitude helped her survive a quarter-final against Elina Svitolina, during which she saved a match point.
Halep’s defensive skills make her one of the top players on the red dirt -- the slowest surface.
“I think I would beat 99 per cent of the girls with the way I played today. Unfortunately I was playing Simona,” said Pliskova.
Halep came close to a maiden grand slam title here in 2014, losing 6-4 6-7 6-4 to Maria Sharapova in the final. The third seed, who won in Madrid and reached the final in Rome during the claycourt season, is confident she is now a better player.
“I‘m a different player, my game is stronger, I think more about the game, I play smarter,” she explained.
Also, I‘m physically much stronger and the attitude is better. I‘m much stronger than in 2014.”
In her clan is her manager Virginia Ruzici, the only Romanian woman to have won a grand slam at the French Open in 1978.
One would think it is an asset ahead of a major final.
“I only talk with my coach (Australian Darren Cahill) about tactics. I don’t need advice on how to handle pressure,” said Halep.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Rex Gowar