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Ice-cool Sharapova makes right moves

Had someone told Maria Sharapova a few years ago that she would be appearing in her third straight French Open final, she might have assumed she had stumbled into a parallel universe.

Maria Sharapova is appearing in the French Open final for the third consecutive year. Picture: Getty Sport
Maria Sharapova is appearing in the French Open final for the third consecutive year. Picture: Getty Sport

Her quote that she moved on clay like "a cow on ice" has become famous over the years but today she will take her place in the final again, chasing a second French Open title and a fifth career grand slam crown.

It marks a remarkable effort from the Russian, who got past the quarter-finals only once in her first eight visits to Paris but is now within one match of a second title in three years.

"It's something I'm very proud of," Sharapova said yesterday as she geared up for today's final against Romania's Simona Halep, the No.4 seed who will be appearing in her first grand slam final.

The Russian has come through three consecutive three-set battles, each time coming from behind, to reach the final and admits she has not always played her best tennis. But the 27-year-old knows that nothing is won until the last match and she goes into the match knowing she has produced her best when she has needed it most.

"Of course you always want to play your best tennis," she said. "You try to perform as well as you can. I've had some really tough matches where I've been pushed, and in the last three matches especially.

"A lot of times in my career I've felt better coming off those matches knowing that I might not have played my best tennis or just didn't feel as great as maybe I should have, or done the right things, but still came through. And I'm finding myself playing for another major.

"I'm in a grand slam final. No matter who is across the net, I feel it's a great opportunity for the both of us. And I'll be there until the very last point."

Halep may not be a household name in many countries but the Romanian's appearance in the showpiece match should not be much of a shock to anyone who has observed her progress over the last 12 months, a period in which she has won seven titles.

Now coached by Wim Fissette, who worked with Kim Clijsters, Halep has added some power to her outstanding speed and, as she showed in her semi-final win over Andrea Petkovic, she believes she belongs in this kind of company. "I had an impressive year but now at this tournament, it's fantastic," she said. "I have emotions also to speak and to say how I feel. It's incredible and I just want for the final to play a good match."

Halep took the first set off Sharapova when they met in the final in Madrid last month and the Russian knows winning the title again will not be easy. "Her level has definitely increased in the last year and she's always a difficult player to play against," she explained. "She hasn't dropped a set in this tournament.

"She is a very physical opponent and you must be ready to play however long it takes to win the match against her. I'll be ready."

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