Simona Halep beats Sloane Stephens to win French Open and first major
- Author: Steve Townsend Jun 10, 2018,
Jun 10, 2018, 3:58
While Halep sometimes has trouble with so much on the line, Stephens has been ideal in title matches, going 6-0.
The American was defeated 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 by world No 1 Simona Halep in Saturday's championship match at Roland Garros in what was her first defeat in a final after previously boasting a flawless 6-0 record.
In her third French Open final, after 2014 and 2017, 2018 finally brought the crown in the jewel for the nippy Romanian world No.1.
'Well first of all thank you guys, ' she said on court after the match.
Indeed, there is something of a deja-vu feel from last year's final, where she was a heavy favourite over Jelena Ostapenko, and Halep needs to defeat Stephens to bury the ghosts from what must have been an incredibly deflating defeat - not to mention her best chance to win a Slam title. "I just have to start to relax and enjoy the match".
Simona Halep thought another chance to win her first Grand Slam title "had gone" before she fought back to win the French Open.
Halep drew on the memories of her unpleasant experiences in a 2014 French Open final defeat to Maria Sharapova, a showdown with Jelena Ostapenko past year and her Australian Open loss to Caroline Woznacki in January to pull herself off the ropes.
Stevens netted a service return to bow out.
Winning Grand Slams is paramount to that.
A tense first game of the second set saw Stephens squander three break points before eventually claiming an advantage she quickly consolidated into a 2-0 lead.
"She didn't miss. I missed", Halep said regretfully.
The second set was more of a test for Halep, who was ahead by a set and 3-0 before falling apart against Ostapenko a year ago. "Thanks guys it was awesome and I felt your support", Halep, who lost this year's Australian Open final to Caroline Wozniakci, said on court.
For the first time in a young career filled with both success and heartbreak, Simona Halep is a Grand Slam champion.
While Stephens temporarily halted her slide, getting to 4-all, Halep used two consecutive powerful forehand winners to hold in the next game. "I believe I have the game to win".
Having known the frustration of time away from the court perhaps explains her nearly trance-like calm in the heat of battle - always appearing unruffled.
Stephens, who is seeded 10th and will move into the top five ranked players in the world, is the lone remaining American in any of the French Open title matches.
When Halep served for the match at 5-1 with chants of "See-Mohh-Nahhh" reverberating around Court Philippe Chatrier, only a sudden attack of nerves could have denied her.
"In the last game, I felt I could not breathe anymore, so I just tried to not repeat the last few years", she said.
Halep leveled at 1-1 after coming out on top of a 25-shot rally but struggled to dictate from the baseline against her American rival, who moved confidently across the court and was excellent on the counterattack.
Stephens faded after a bright start.
"Congratulations to Simona. There is no-one else I'd rather lose to than the number one in the world".
The Romanian star continued to dominate her opponent in the third set, taking a comfortable lead from the start.
Halep beat Stephens the last four times they played each other.
He had threatened to stop working with her, saying that Halep's negative body language and attitude were standing in her way.