‘Must do better’ Simona Halep into third Roland Garros final, faces Sloane Stephens

Simona Halep celebrates winning her semi final match against Spain's Garbine Muguruza (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)
Updated 07 June 2018

‘Must do better’ Simona Halep into third Roland Garros final, faces Sloane Stephens

PARIS: Simona Halep vowed to erase the misery of her 2017 Roland Garros heartbreak after reaching her third French Open final on Thursday where she will face US Open winner Sloane Stephens for the title.
Halep, the runner-up in 2014 and 2017, enjoyed a 6-1, 6-4 victory over 2016 champion and third seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
Stephens, who won her maiden Slam title in New York last year, defeated fellow American and close friend Madison Keys 6-4, 6-4 having previously never got beyond the quarter-finals in Paris.
“I am really happy that I won the match, it was very important for my mind and I gave it all I had,” said Romanian star Halep.
After racing through the first set, Halep saved three break points in a marathon ninth game of the second which lasted 13 minutes.
“I think I played one of my best matches on clay against a great opponent,” added Halep, who will be appearing in her fourth final at the majors having also been beaten in Australia in January.
“I was 2-4 down in the second set but I knew I had to fight for every ball, push her back and play the way I did in the first set.”
Halep has now defeated Muguruza in both their meetings on clay and will also retain the world number one ranking next week.
However, her sights now turn to the final where she is desperate to erase the memories of last year’s horror show where she surrendered a set and a 3-0 lead to lose to Jelena Ostapenko.
“I have another chance to be in the final and hope to do better than last year.”
She boasts a 5-2 career lead over Stephens including both their meetings on clay.
The American’s last win over the 26-year-old Halep was five years ago.
Halep raced into a 5-0 lead in the first set against misfiring 2016 champion Muguruza who had blasted Maria Sharapova off court on Wednesday for the loss of just three games.
The 24-year-old Spaniard stopped the rot in the sixth game before Halep quickly reasserted her authority.
A sweeping, running forehand into an open court gave her the set with Muguruza having managed just two winners.
It was the first set that the Wimbledon champion had dropped at Roland Garros this year.
She also failed to win a single service game in the opener.
Muguruza settled down in the second set, moving 2-0 ahead before Halep levelled in the eighth game.
That set the stage for the lengthy ninth game where Halep stood firm.
The spirit ebbed away from Muguruza, who converted just two of the eight break points she carved out, and a backhand which sailed long sealed her fate in the 10th game.
“It’s Simona’s third final in Roland Garros, she has a great level. She’s the favorite,” said Muguruza.
Stephens defeated Keys in straight sets when she won the US Open last September.
On Thursday, it was more of the same as the 25-year-old capitalized on her friend’s big match nerves.
“It’s really hard to play against a great friend, but I am pleased to be in the final for the first time,” said Stephens who will rise to four in the world thanks to her deepest run in the French capital.
“This is one of my favorite tournaments. It’s another great opportunity and I am looking forward to it.”
In the first all-American women’s semifinal in Paris since 2002, the 10th seeded Stephens broke in the third game of the opening set.
That was sufficient in a set where 13th seeded Keys committed 23 unforced errors.
Stephens, who had been just two points from being knocked out by Camila Giorgi in the third round, was quickly 2-0 ahead in the second.
She went to 5-2 on a double break and although Keys rallied, the statistics made brutal reading.
She finished with 41 unforced errors with Stephens only needing to fire nine winners to get her home.


Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

Updated 21 November 2019

Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

  • FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track"
  • Said Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting popularity of motorsport

RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s first female racing drivers believes motorsport is too male dominated and that more needs to be done to encourage women to enter the sport.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Aseel Al-Hamad said the fact that only 1.5 percent of racing licences are held by women was “a big international issue.”

Al-Hamad, who is also the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said that while there are some women blazing a trail in the sport, more needs to be done by its authorities.

“There are Formula 1 drivers like Tatiana Calderón, team principles such as Susie Wolff and Claire Williams. We also have female mechanical engineers and in all kinds of positions, but they are just a few. 

“We need to use them as role models to encourage more young girls to become like these amazing women,” she added.

Al-Hamad, who has been passionate about cars since her youth, told Arab News that she is a fan of Formula 1 and a highlight of her career was being invited to drive an F1 car, but her driving idol was Michèle Mouton. 

“Because, back then in the 1980s, she competed in an all-men rally championship. And honestly, I don't think anyone did what she did at that time,” she said.

It is experiences like those that inspired her to forge a path for more women in motorsport and lead the way for female drivers in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Al-Hamad, who mixes racing with her interior design business, is one of the representatives on the International Automobile Federation (FIA)’s “Women in Motorsport Commission”, which creates programs and initiatives to encourage more young girls to be inspired by the sport and consider it as a career.

“I won’t forget the day I got contacted by the president of the Federation asking me to join the board of directors, it's great because I have lots of difficulties in my career and it's so great to now build a foundation for these young women and ensure that they won't go through the struggles and the challenges I went through,” she said.

On the possibility of one day seeing a Saudi female world champion in major motorsport such as F1 and Formula E, she said: “Today, it is possible, especially when we are seeing how the government is very much supporting sports and women’s participation in sport. 

“We have just recently started and we're starting really fast. I won’t be surprised to see a champion soon competing in big international events.”

Al-Hamad also said the Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting the popularity of motorsport in the country and the wider region. 

“Maybe most of the people used to watch football. But, today, when we have such international motorsport event, so many people will get closer to the motorsport and understand the rules. 

“And maybe these young generations, when they attend the race, they might get inspired and become fans of motorsport.” She added.

The FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track,” the second time such an event has been held outside of Europe.

“This event is very much focused on encouraging young girls from eight to 18 years old to discover their talents and motorsport, hopefully it will inspire them to consider a career in motorsport,” Al-Hamad said. 

The event will include educational workshops to introduce girls to a range of topics -- from mechanical engineering to motorsport journalism, as well as opportunities to use racing simulators and to drive on a carting track.

The girls will also take part in a panel discussion with some figurehead females in motorsport including Susie Wolff, team principal of Venturi Formula E. 

“We've approached mostly schools and we sent them invitations to have girls register and hopefully they will discover their talents,” Al-Hamad said.

Her advice to young women is to achieve what they dream for, even if they are dreaming big.

“They might have some fears at the beginning, they might think it's impossible. But my advice to them is to take small steps and just think of the steps with time, they will be surprised that they actually achieve their dreams,” she said.

Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber.

Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber. The model goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020. (Porsche)

The Taycan, which goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020, is the most powerful production electric model that the sports car manufacturer currently has in its product range, hitting 0-100kmh in 3.2 seconds.

On driving it, Al-Hamad said: “We wanted to test the performance of the car and it's great that we just arrived ahead of Porsche's debut in the Formula E this weekend.

“I love the handling, the feeling, it's a fast car, it has the same Porsche DNA in its interior and exterior. It is a beautiful car.”