Halep ends wait for grand slam in France

6-0: Stephens career record in tournament title matches.

Paris: For a while Simona Halep's third French Open final looked like ending in familiar heartache but the Romanian eventually wore down Sloane Stephens for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory and claim her long-overdue first Grand Slam title on Saturday. After sitting out almost a year because of surgery on her right foot in January 2017, she has soared up the rankings and now made it to her second major final in the past nine months.

"It was wonderful and thank you for your support", she told the crowd - most of whom appeared to be backing her - on court Philippe-Chatrier.

Current US Open champion Stephens took control of the match by winning the opening set, but the turning point came in the middle of the second as Halep found her game and started to win points at the net. I was dreaming for this moment since I started to play tennis.

US Open champion Stephens used her powerful game to full effect to take the first set but then ran out of steam as Romania's Halep completed a memorable victory. She won the first three games of the third set, capitalizing on a few unforced errors from Stephens to win a break.

"It's always hard playing someone from your country and such a good friend, so I was really pleased to be able to get through that", Stephens said.

In her other grand slam final, in Paris in 2014, the 26-year-old lost a three-set battle to Maria Sharapova.

Halep became just the second Romanian woman to win a grand slam.

When Halep ended a 14-stroke point by pushing a backhand wide, Stephens owned the first set.

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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.

She did manage to make Stephens serve for the set, though, and was stepping into the court with more authority, bringing up her first break point.

One can only imagine what was going through Halep's mind serving at 5-1 but an ace steadied her nerves before she claimed her first Grand Slam title at the 32nd attempt. Not much after that, Stephens broke to begin the second set, then held for a 2-0 lead.

At this time previous year, Stephens wasn't even ranked in the WTA top 100. These are unique moments, and many players would like to have this opportunity.

From the beginning of the match, the 10th-ranked Stephens was clearly superior on her serve, and offered resistance on Halep's. "There's no one I'd rather lose to than the No.1 in the world so congratulations to you and your team". She led unseeded Jelena Ostapenko one set to love, and 3-0 in the second set, three games away from her breakthrough.

But Halep doesn't want to focus on that, even though it must give her added confidence.

Halep rose to the top of the world rankings for the first time in October and has been the leading player on the WTA Tour this year.

The top-ranked Halep, playing in her third singles final at Roland Garros, won the toss and made a decision to receive.

  • Regina Holmes