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Diminutive Halep has all the angles covered

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - So why not Simona Halep? After all, the diminutive Justine Henin won the French Open four times.

The Romanian is not a hard hitter and her height (1.68m) does not allow her to serve big - just like the 1.67m seven-times grand slam champion from Belgium.

And just like Henin, last year's most improved player Halep compensates for what she lacks in power through her tactical acumen.

The Romanian managed by former French Open champion Virginia Ruzici prowls along the baseline, rarely behind it, and opens the angles left and right.

It works, as 2009 Roland Garros winner Svetlana Kuznetsova experienced on Wednesday in a 6-2 6-2 thrashing in the quarter-finals in Paris.

The Russian was left scurrying for the ball in every corner, aggravating a groin injury she sustained in her previous match.

"I just try to play fast, to open the court very well, to open the angles, and to take the ball very fast, to stay very close to the baseline," the fourth seed, who has yet to drop a set and conceded just over four games per match, told reporters.

"It is my style to play fast and to take the ball very early. So my tactic was to play fast, to play very close to the ball, and just to open the angles.

"With my serve I try to hit stronger, but I cannot because I'm not very tall."

She can indeed only look up to Maria Sharapova (1.88m) and Eugenie Bouchard (1.78m), whom she could meet in Saturday's final if she gets past 1.8m tall German Andrea Petkovic in Thursday's semi-final.

"I am not 1.80m tall. I try to open the angles because I know this is my chance on court," said Halep, who won six WTA titles last year.

"I believe in this and that's why I'm practicing also this point."

She will stick to her strategy against Petkovic.

"I played against her one year ago in Nuremberg in the final," said Halep.

"I beat her in two sets (6-3 6-3), but it's already one year. Maybe she has improved. I have also improved."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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