Simona Halep celebrates after winning the French Open. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Simona Halep celebrates after winning the French Open. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Halep soars to first ever grand slam

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 to claim her long-awaited first grand slam title.

US Open champion Stephens outfought Halep to take the opening set and was a break up in the second but the world No.1 wound her way back into contention before running away with the deciding set.

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 slam finals.

She climbed into the stands to embrace Australian coach Darren Cahill, who was in her box last year when Halep blew a commanding lead against Jelena Ostapenko in the final and when she lost to Caroline Wozniacki in this year's Australian Open final.

"In the last game I couldn't breathe, I just didn't want to repeat what happened the other years," Halep said on court.

The Romanian was finally able to snag a win.
The Romanian was finally able to snag a win.

Both players boasted rock-solid defence and superb court coverage but it was Stephens who took the early advantage, winning the first set after some seemingly endless rallies.

It looked bleak for Halep when she trailed 2-0 in the second set but the effects of Stephens' efforts suddenly caught up with her as the American began to wilt and Halep grabbed the momentum with nine consecutive points on the way to a 4-2 lead.

When Stephens dragged it back to 4-4, it seemed Halep's revival might be over. But a crunching Halep backhand at 30-30 in the ninth game proved too much for Stephens as Halep crucially held and in the next game Stephens put a weary backhand wide to lose the set.

Halep turned the screws in the decider to grab a break and then another to lead 4-0.

Sloane Stephens in action during the final.
Sloane Stephens in action during the final.

Another explosion of noise greeted a sensational point in which Halep chased a drop shot down and was then equal to Stephens' attempted lob with a backhand smash.

Serving at 5-1, an ace steadied Halep's nerves before she claimed her first grand slam at the 32nd attempt.

"Congratulations to Simona. There is no-one else I'd rather lose to than the number one in the world," a gracious Stephens, who will rise to four in the rankings, said.


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