Halep outlasts Pliskova to reach second French Open final
The Romanian third seed, a beaten finalist in 2014, will play unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko in Saturday's title game.
Simona Halep reached a second Roland Garros final on Thursday with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Karolina Pliskova, moving the Romanian third seed to within a single win of her maiden Grand Slam title and the world number one spot.
Halep, runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2014, will play Jelena Ostapenko in Saturday’s final after the unseeded Latvian 20-year-old saw off Timea Bacsinszky 7-6, 3-6, 6-3.
Halep on Ostapenko: "It will be a big challenge"
"It's an amazing feeling right now," said Halep, who extended her head-to-head record against the world number three to 5-1. "It was extremely tough today as Karolina is a very tough opponent. To be in the final again is great. I hope to win this time. But I am facing a young opponent; it will be a big challenge."
Pliskova, who went for every shot in the last four match, ended the game with a 45 winners and an incredible unforced error count of 55, which ultimately upended her challenge against the more defensive Halep, who managed only 14 winners but kept her own errors down to the same number.
Pliskova 2-1 Halep: Halep beats Pliskova, as it happened
Pliskova vs Halep: French Open 2017 semi-final preview
There is plenty of intrigue in store on day 12 of Roland Garros, not least in the opening semi-final game between Jelena Ostapenko and Timea Bacsinszky, quite possibly the first Grand Slam semi-final to be contested between two players both celebrating their birthday.
The winner of that contest will go on to play either Karolina Pliskova or Simona Halep in the final, with the second and third seeds meeting in the final match of the day on Philippe Chatrier. The French Open is guaranteed a new champion with none of the four having lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and only Halep has previous experience of playing in the showpiece match in 2014, when she was defeated by Maria Sharapova.
Very open Roland Garros competition
With the Russian absent and Serena Williams taking a time out the draw this year was one of the most open in most recent memory and yet the last time the second and third seeds reached the semifinals in Paris was in 2013. As well as a place in the final and a match against either the unseeded Ostapenko or the Swiss 30th seed Halep and Pliskova have the number one ranking within their grasp. Pliskova, the world number three, will dethrone Angelique Kerber next week if she reaches the final while Halep, ranked fourth, will ascend to the top of the ranking if she wins the title on Saturday.
Coming into the tournament, when the ranking issue was pointed out to her, Pliskova scoffed: "There's no way I'm winning Roland Garros!" She had a point. The Czech had never been past the second round in Paris and had won just four times on clay this season. Halep on the other hand was installed as the tournament favourite after reaching the semis in Stuttgart, winning Madrid and getting to the final in Rome, where she rolled her ankle playing against Elina Svitolina, putting her French Open participation doubt.
Halep shows fitness and experience over Pliskova
On Wednesday, Halep blasted any lingering concerns about her fitness off the court along with Svitolina in a game that stamped her title credentials further. Trailing by a set and 1-5, the world number four powered her way through to the semifinal in one of the great Roland Garros comebacks.
Halep has the edge on Pliskova in terms of experience and head-to-head wins (she leads 4-1) but Pliskova's recent Grand Slam pedigree - she reached the US Open final and the quarters in Australia - confirm there is a new contender in the mix at the top of the WTA tree. Her run at Flushing Meadows was the first time she's been beyond the third round of any major in her career.
Follow the live coverage match between Ostapenko vs Halep, French Open women's final