French Open 2014: Maria Sharapova's experience will tell in final, says Marion Bartoli


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The Independent Online

Marion Bartoli believes that Maria Sharapova's big-match experience can be a decisive factor when the Russian takes on Simona Halep in the French Open final.

Sharapova has won the title at all four Grand Slam tournaments and will be appearing in her third successive Roland Garros final, while Halep had never gone beyond the quarter-finals of any Grand Slam event until she arrived here.

Bartoli, last year's Wimbledon champion, knows how the experience of playing in a Grand Slam final can be of huge benefit. "It made a massive difference for me, playing my second Grand Slam final, compared with my first one," Bartoli said.

Halep, nevertheless, has not dropped a set en route to the final, while Sharapova has lost the first set in each of her past three matches, against Sam Stosur, Garbine Muguruza and Eugenie Bouchard.

"If Maria starts as badly as she has in the last three matches, Simona will win," Bartoli said. "But on the other hand, because Maria struggled so much during those last three matches, she will find a way to win. Especially in that third set [against Bouchard], she played really well.

"I think she can carry on this momentum. Maria will have more time against Simona, who won't play like Bouchard, stepping inside the court and trying to work out winners. Maria is very disturbed by someone who takes the ball early, can hit enough winners, can outplay her in a way, like Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka can.

"That really causes her some problems. When she has time to get set for her shots and is dictating, when she's the one in control, she's very dangerous."

Halep, who has lost all three of her previous matches against Sharapova, has won seven titles in the last 12 months but the 22-year-old Romanian recognised that the final would be very different to anything she has experienced before.

"Of course I know that it will be very tough to manage the emotions, but I will try my best," Halep said. "I have nothing to lose. I will always keep this in my mind. I will try to hit very relaxed."

Bartoli, meanwhile, was announced as one of the participants in the "Rally for Bally" charity matches a week on Sunday in memory of Elena Baltacha, the former British No 1 who died last month of liver cancer.

Bartoli will play a mixed doubles match with Andy Murray, Ross Hutchins and another female player yet to be announced on the final day of the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club.

Tale of the tape: Sharapova v Halep

27 Age 22

Nyagan, Russia Birthplace Constanta, Romania

6ft 2in Height 5ft 6in

Right Plays Right

2001 Turned pro 2006

8 World ranking 4

£16.7m Career earnings £2m

31 (4) Titles (Slams) 7 (0)

3 Head-to-head 0

Winner, 2012 French Open best Final, 2014