Williams withdrew shortly before the match with a pectoral muscle injury, a moment Sharapova said she found briefly startling but not destabilizing.
After her third-round win against Julia Goerges, Williams charged at Sharapova's book, questioning why it wasn't truthful - at least to her - and why Sharapova was so obsessed with her as a subject.
Stephens briefly looked out on her feet, but raised her game by shortening the points to break straight back before levelling the set at 4-4, helped by the first ace of the match.
The American pair have contrasting styles, with Stephens' game based on her athleticism and ability to get many balls back, while also turning defence into offence fairly quickly.
Top seed Simona Halep insisted that she "doesn't feel pressure" ahead of her third French Open final on Saturday, where she will face American Sloane Stephens. Halep fell to 0-3 with a trophy on the line at the Australian Open in January, beaten by Caroline Wozniacki.
Stephens's run to Saturday's final comes after a roller-coaster year since her US Open stunner.
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However, fast-forward a year and Stephens is a US Open champion, is about to reach at least the number four ranking in the world and on Saturday will take on Halep in the 2018 French Open final. At the Miami Open in March, she won the title, beating four major champions in a row.
"The book was a lot about me". But she played two bold, aggressive points, taking chances with her forehand inside the court.
"She was playing incredible right away, and I think I should have done something a little bit better to not let it go so fast". I think Stephens has been too consistent throughout these two weeks. Stephens won 71 percent of her total service points and had just 11 unforced errors.
Backed by fans who loudly chanted her first name between games, Halep went ahead 3-0 with the help of only one victor. "So it's just, like, I think it would be more shocking if I wasn't in tears". "If I do that, I will be OK after the match, no matter the result". It was her first quarter-final at the majors since Melbourne in 2016 after which she served a 15-month doping ban. We saw that in last year's U.S. Open-she came right out of the gates firing on all cylinders. And it's always tough against her.
Stephens managed to land a couple of late blows, but Halep confidently served it out, sealing victory on her first match point when her opponent netted a return.
Halep has been in fine form so far at Roland Garros and eased past former victor Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-4 in the last four - a victory which also ensured she will remain the world number one at the end of the tournament.
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