Don’t look now, but the highest seed remaining in the Roland Garros 2014 women’s singles draw is #4 Simona Halep. Not only is that notable due to the trio of upsets that ousted Serena Williams, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska, but also when you consider that Simona Halep was a winless, unseeded player just one year ago at Roland Garros 2013. She was 0 for 3 in finals prior to last year’s clay court Major. That she has progressed so rapidly over one year…from being another middle of the pack player to a 7-time winner on tour…yes, 7 titles in 12 months…to world #4 is truly impressive. She had her highest tier championship win this year when she triumphed in Doha, taking the Qatar Total Open. Her one Achilles heel has been Major performances. Coming into 2014, despite 6 wins through the end of 2013, Simona had only been past the second round of a Major once, and that was back in 2011. She showed improvement at the 2014 Australian Open, finally getting to the quarterfinals. This is her opportunity. Roland Garros 2014. Top 3 seeds gone. She’s the high seed on the board. She took care of business 6-3 6-0 versus Maria Teresa Torro-Flor in the third round. The problem is, standing in her way in the fourth round is American Sloane Stephens.
Sloane is the opposite of Simona, so far. Stephens has performed best in the Majors while not yet duplicating that form in smaller events. Sloane reached the semifinals of the 2013 Australian Open, upsetting Serena Williams along the way, and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon 2013. She also upset Maria Sharapova in Cincinnati. Granted, both Serena and Masha were not physically 100% those matches, but no excuses. More importantly, Sloane holds a 2-1 head to head advantage over Simona, winning the last two match-ups rather easily, 6-4 6-0 and 6-1 6-1. Both of those were early in 2013 before Simona made her great leap forward. They were also on hard courts. The one win for Simona came in 2012 at Barcelona on clay. With Sloane taking out Ekaterina Makarove 3 and 4 in the third round, it leaves a very intriguing 4th round showdown between a player in Simona who is ranked higher and has 7 titles in the last 12 months against a player she should beat in Sloane, but maybe isn’t favored to do so based on the high level Sloane can take her game to when the lights are shining brightest and who has handle Halep easily the last two times they’ve met. This is one I could see going half a dozen different ways.
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4 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-3 6-0 vs Maria Teresa Torro-Flor)
27 SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA (won 7-6 (3) 1-6 9-7 vs 5 Petra Kvitova)
6 JELENA JANKOVIC (won 6-1 6-2 vs 26 Sorana Cirstea)
23 LUCIE SAFAROVA (won 6-3 6-3 vs 11 Ana Ivanovic)
15 SLOANE STEPHENS (won 6-3 6-4 vs 22 Ekaterina Makarova)
28 ANDREA PETKOVIC (won 6-4 4-6 6-4 vs Kristina Mladenovic)
…and what to do once you suffer an early upset at Roland Garros 2014? Head to Miami like Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki did to watch the Heat finish off the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, 4 games to 2.