Saturday, 9 June 2018
Halep wins French Open
The world number one finally got her hands on the coveted Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen four years after her first appearance in the final at Roland Garros.
Halep became first Romanian to win major in 40 years as she sealed the title with an unreturnable serve before covering her face with her hands in disbelief following a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.
She did it the hard way, though, falling a set and a break behind to Stephens, who was hunting a second major title to add to her triumph at last year's US Open.
But the hard-hitting Romanian managed to turn the match around to finally break her grand slam final duck at the fourth attempt.
Halep climbed into the stands, Pat Cash style, to celebrate with her team before a courtside interview.
She said: "In last game I couldn't breathe anymore. I did everything I could. It's amazing what is happening now."
Amid some spellbinding rallies, Stephens clinched a solitary break to take the first set.
Halep was widely regarded as having played too defensively in her final defeat by Jelena Ostapenko 12 months ago, so she was the aggressor in the early stages.
But she could not breach the defence of the composed Stephens, who was barely deviating from her stock position two yards behind the baseline, and it was the American who secured the break for 3-1.
Halep ensured Stephens would have to serve the set out, and forced a break point of her own, but the 25-year-old front-runner held her nerve to take it in 42 minutes.
Stephens looked to have taken control of the match with another break at the start of the second set.
But Halep, stung into action, levelled up in the fourth game, breaking Stephens to love as the first chinks in the American's armour appeared.
A hold to love meant Halep had taken eight unanswered points, and another break followed as Stephens' levels dipped for the first time in the match.
But just as the set was slipping away from Stephens, a series of unforced errors by Halep gifted the break back for 4-4.
Halep survived a pressurised service game and then turned the screw, eking out a break point from which Stephens planted wide to take the contest to a deciding set.
A hold and a break later and Halep was ahead for the first time in the match, with Stephens' error count rising and rising.
A second break followed, the result of a stunning rally with both players slugging it out at the baseline before charging into the net, Stephens blinking first.
Halep was closing in on the title she craved so much, while Stephens was wilting fast, and a comfortable hold made it 5-0.
Stephens forced Halep to serve it out but, as yet another chorus of 'Simona' rang around Court Philippe Chatrier from the vast Romanian contingent, she did just that.
Meanwhile, Halep speaking after the match expressed surprise at her triumph.
“Honestly, I can’t believe it. In last game I didn’t breathe anymore. I did everything I could. It’s amazing what is happening now.”
“I see Darren [Cahill] there with the Romanian flag,” Halep says. She adds that she’s really like to play another final at Roland Garros “because this is my favorite court, it’s a really beautiful one”.
She adds: “Last year it was tough to talk because I lost that match. I was dreaming about this moment since I was 14. Thank you for supporting me. I wanted this trophy to be here in France. Of course many congrats to Sloane. Last year you won US Open and you done a great job after those injuries. I know you will play many finals in the future. Good luck and take care of your body.”
ECSTASY: Halep admires the French Open trophy after her victory over Stephens.