Halep fights back to clinch maiden grand slam title

GETTYSerena Williams has withdrawn from the French Open
GETTYSerena Williams has withdrawn from the French Open

10 June, 2018

Stephens coughed up the first double fault of the match for 0-30 in the fourth game, in the middle of that momentum shift towards Halep, and from there the signs were ominous.

In order to win her first Grand Slam title, Simona Halep had to reflect on one of her most painful defeats. Stephens, moving silkily from side-to-side, out-Haleped Halep to move 4-1 in front, however, turning herself into a human backboard to return everything being thrown at her. Halep scrapped desperately to get the break back.

She returned to the court and said: "It was awesome and thank you for your support".

As Stephen's level dropped, Halep demonstrated her mental strength, flipping the script from last year's final, when she led by a set and a break against Ostapenko before collapsing.

'I have been dreaming of this moment since I started to play tennis. In all, Halep won 12 of the final 15 games, serving out the match at 5-1 and then dropping her racket as she faced her team in the players' box with both her arms held high. "I think winning here is very special for her and I'm glad she finally got her first Slam", said the American.

Halep drew on the memories of her unpleasant experiences in a 2014 French Open final defeat to Maria Sharapova, a showdown with Jelena Ostapenko previous year and her Australian Open loss to Caroline Woznacki in January to pull herself off the ropes. Her semifinal victory over Venus Williams gave her a first career Grand Slam final. But an unforced error spoiled her one and only break point. Once the second set was over, it was a dominating performance by Halep, who barely allowed Stephens to overcome the loss of the second set.

But she held it together in the second set before surging to the line in the decider and making her superior pedigree on clay tell.

The Simona Halep vs Sloane Stephens French Open women's singles final will be played on the Philippe-Chatrier court in Paris.

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- Became the first Romanian to win a Grand Slam crown since her manager Virginia Ruzici in Paris in 1978. "I believe I have the game to win". She's very strong on court.

"I was up against a great player so I had make sure I brought my best tennis".

"Congratulations to Simona. There is no-one else I'd rather lose to than the number one in the world", Stephens, who will rise to four in the rankings, said. She got even closer in last year's final against Ostapenko, an unseeded Latvian, before losing a one-set, 3-0 lead as Ostapenko took big swings and risks, most of which paid off.

"When I started to win games, I said that past year the same thing happened to me", she said.

The match flipped definitively when Halep won nine consecutive points in the second set.

Stephens faded after a bright start. But whatever comes next, the spirit and elegance Halep showed in her victory on Saturday will define her for years to come. Halep has been lights out with her return this tournament and has produced a combined 14 breaks in her last two matches.

German Andrea Petkovic - a former top-10 player now ranked 107th in the world - sent a message to Halep's critics.

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