Simona Halep is finally a grand slam winner after she defeated Sloane Stephens in the French Open final, coming from a set down to beat the American in a high quality affair 3-6 6-4 6-1. After three heartbreaking finals losses, the Romanian finally got to hold the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.
While there were question marks over Halep’s toughness at the highest level, there were no such concerns for Stephens. Sporting a 6-0 record in finals, the American looked confident and struck the first blow to take a 3-1 lead. She was striking the ball well, not looking like her previous self who had often struggled against the more defensive players on tour. Serving for the set, she did face a break point but saved it and would go on to finish the set after Halep hit a backhand long.
Halep fell down a break early on and it felt like she would continue her run of disappointments on the biggest stage. However, she found her groove and a number of net approaches helped her on way to a run of four straight games. She did drop the next 2 to put her in some peril but a decisive hold at 4-4 in the second set for the second match running helped her once more. More errors begun to come from the Stephens racket and she delivered a backhand wide to make it 1 set each.
From then on, Halep was in the ascendancy and was barely troubled after an early break. She was two points away from a final set bagel but a tiring Stephens managed to hold for her only game of the decider. It wasn’t an epic rally but a tame forehand return into the net that ended the match, finally securing a slam title for the Romanian.
Stephens will be disappointed to have faltered with a second grand slam in her grasp but it has been an astonishing 9 months for the now World No.4. A long term injury left her unable to walk properly in the opening months of last year but she now has a grand slam, a slam final and career high ranking to her name all in such a short space of time. “[Halep] raised her game, raised her level,” Stephens said afterwards. “Not much you can really do about that. I competed the best I could, and the better player won the match today. I think she’s had a tough journey. I think winning here is very special for her and I’m glad she finally got her first slam. It’s a beautiful thing, very special.”
“It’s a special moment. I was dreaming for this moment since actually I started to play tennis, it’s my favorite Grand Slam. I always said that if I’m going to win one, I want it to be here. It’s real now.” Halep said. The Romanian returns to the No.1 spot and joins the likes of Martina Hingis and Justine Henin as players who have won both the Girls and Women’s singles title in Paris.