PARIS — Less than a month after fearing that she’d broken her ankle, Simona Halep is one match away from winning her first Grand Slam title.

The third-seeded Halep beat No. 2 Karolina Pliskova on Thursday to reach the French Open final, where she will face the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko.

It seemed unlikely that Halep would even be able to play at Roland Garros after the Romanian tore a ligament in her right ankle during her loss to Elina Svitolina in the Italian Open final.

“I was scared, because they told me that it’s broken,” said Halep, who said she still feels pain during matches. “I had no idea what does it mean.

“But I refused to accept that I cannot play, so I think I recovered faster mentally because of the positive thinking, and I really wanted to be here. So didn’t matter what the scan showed.”

Halep, who was runner-up to Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros in 2014, is a step closer to achieving both her goals at the French Open after beating Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

The 25-year-old Halep already is guaranteed to move into second in the WTA rankings, but she can replace Angelique Kerber at the top if she wins on Saturday.

“I said earlier that I will play for two things: my first Grand Slam and No. 1 in the world,” Halep said. “It’s a big challenge, a big chance. I think I have the game. I have the mentality to win, but it’s going to be tough. I expect her to give everything she has, to hit all the balls, to play with confidence.

“But I’m confident, as well. I’m ready to face her, and I’m ready to face another final. Yeah, it’s a big challenge. It’s a big thing. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, two things in the same time. So it’s going to be amazing.”

Halep believes she is in a better position now than she was three years ago.

“I learned many things during the years, not just after that final,” she said. “I think I’m different player … (my game) is stronger, and it’s different.

“I think more about the game, and I play smarter, in my opinion, and also physically. I’m much better, stronger. Attitude better. I think I’m different player, and I’m much stronger than 2014.”


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