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Tennis Expect long rallies because neither French Open women’s finalist is ever willing to concede she’s out of a point

Sloane Stephens of the U.S.

PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/Reuters

Sloane Stephens enters Saturday’s French Open final against No. 1 Simona Halep with a 6-0 record in tournament title matches.

“I’m pretty calm on the court all the time, I’d say. I don’t get too up, too down,” Stephens said. “I think that it has helped me.”

Halep, meanwhile, is 0-3 with a Grand Slam trophy at stake.

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“Hopefully,” Halep said, “tomorrow, I will be better than previous ones.”

Here’s something the women who meet for the championship at Roland Garros do have in common: They rarely seem to let a point end quickly. Halep, a 26-year-old Romanian, and the 10th-seeded Stephens, a 25-year-old American, are among the best there is right now at using instinct and speed to track down tough-to-reach shots and force opponents to hit another.

And that’s not to say they’re merely content to push balls back. Both have learned to pick the right spots to be aggressive and are quite capable of switching from retriever to attacker in a blink.

“They obviously both move really well. It’s going to be who can stay in the point the longest,” said Madison Keys, who lost to Stephens in the French Open semi-finals on Thursday and in the U.S. Open final last September.

“Both of them are similar in the sense that if you can get them off of the baseline, then you can open up the court,” Keys said. “I think if you try to go angles with them, you’re going to be the one that’s running – and not like it.”

That matchup could make for long, riveting exchanges. Neither finalist ever seems willing to concede she’s out of a point.

Halep, 16-14 overall in tour finals, has lost twice at that stage at the French Open, to Maria Sharapova in 2014, then to Jelena Ostapenko after leading by a set and 3-0 in the second a year ago. Her third defeat with a major title on the line came against Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open in January.

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She is 5-2 against Stephens, including winning their past four matches.

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