Simona Halep beats Sloane Stephens to win French Open
Jun 10 2018 by Dustin Murphy
The most devastating of those came on the same court just a year ago, where she let a set and a break lead slip to lose to Jelena Ostapenko.
A 6-1, 6-4 demolition of Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza in the semi-final suggested Halep is more than ready to break her duck. "I always said that if I'm going to win one, I want it to be here". It was an indication of things to come - in the first set. You learn from it.
But Halep dug deep, squaring the final by winning the next two games, as Stephens fired a backhand wide on the first set point. It looks great on you. It's a lesson learned.
She boasts a 5-2 career lead over Stephens including both their meetings on clay. "But she did a great job of not getting overconfident".
But when Stephens netted a forehand return on Halep's first match point, the Romanian could finally replace the bitter memories of her first three Grand Slamfinals with one she will cherish for the rest of her life. "I'm really happy it's happened in Roland-Garros in Paris - my special city", Halep said.
"I don't know who said that I feel pressure".
"I believed and I never gave up". She was determined to make the 2018 French Open championship match against Sloane Stephens a different experience.
That set the stage for the lengthy ninth game where Halep stood firm.
Amid some spellbinding rallies, Stephens clinched a solitary break to take the first set.
Halep's coach and ESPN tennis analyst, Darren Cahill, who had been concerned early, said the change got to the legs of Stephens. "In the end, that probably worked a little bit in her favor". After one error, exasperated, she slapped her thigh in frustration. It's a big chance to win my dream tournament. She's very strong on court.
After racing through the first set, Halep saved three break points in a marathon ninth game of the second which lasted 13 minutes.
Romania's Simona Halep in action during the final against Sloane Stephens of the US, French OpenRoland Garros, Paris, France, June 9, 2018. "It's very hard. I think more when I do play Madi".
"The grass is coming, I have few tournaments ahead, but now I'm off", she said. It was as if Halep were not only playing on crushed red brick but also against a red brick wall.
Halep's status as one of the WTA Tour's most-liked players was proven as several of her rivals took to Twitter to reflect on the victory. In the second, she turned it round to nine winners and 11 unforced.
"Yeah, just another good opportunity", she said.
Stats matter, but they rarely tell the whole story.
"Can I just state for the record that all of you guys in here were tweeting that I had a losing record anywhere except for the United States". Stephens couldn't play with the lead, and once the lead vanished, so did her edge. It's the first semifinal between a pair of American women at Roland Garros since Serena Williams beat Jennifer Capriati on her way to the 2002 title.