Simona Halep Breaks Through, Beating Sloane Stephens for the French Open Title

Florence Fletcher
June 10, 2018

Simona Halep, who is number one in the WTArankings, clinched her maiden Grand Slam title by beating 2017 USOpen champion Sloane Stephens in the French Open final in Paris on Saturday.

Stephens, seeded 10th in the showcase clay-court event, had been dreaming of extending her ideal record in Grand Slam finals, having beaten friend and compatriot Madison Keys to win last year's US Open.

Halep thus confirmed her status as the No.1 player in the world, having also made the final of the Australian Open in January before losing to Caroline Wozniacki.

That heartbreak, though, has been replaced by joy.

'Well first of all thank you guys, ' she said on court after the match.

"In the last game, I felt I could not breath any more", she said courtside. "It's very hard. I think more when I do play Madi, it's just - on the court it's very competitive".

Muguruza at the start of the semi-finals had not lost a set in the tournament. "Enjoy it be happy and keep it going because you're like a kid".

Gutsy Stephens forced Halep to serve it out but, as yet another chorus of "Simona" rang around Court Philippe Chatrier from the vast Romanian contingent, she did just that.

"I think the best thing that I have done these two weeks is that I stopped missing during the match." said the crowd favourite with a smile. "I don't get too up, too down", Stephens said. It's a lovely thing, very special.

If Theim is going to earn the French Open title, he would be well-advised to win the first set. She's a great opponent, a great player.

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"It's never easy playing someone from your country, let alone someone you actually, like, care about and you're friends with", Stephens said.

Simona Halep dropped her racket the way a performer drops a microphone when no further words are necessary. "There's not as much, "Come ons" and things like that".

A hold and a break later and Halep was ahead for the first time in the match, with Stephens' error count rising and rising.

The match was at its best in the first set but was rarely less compelling as Halep completely justified her number one ranking. And Halep, already a massive star in her home country, knows she has received growing support from elsewhere.

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. The Spaniard won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon previous year.

"It's not the trophy I wanted but it is still lovely", Stephens said. She would right the ship, however, winning three straight games from down 4-2 and breaking Muguruza in the 10th game to seal the victory.

There was a palpable relief after the match as emotion washed over her face and the crowd roared its approval.

Yet at 2-4 down the American dug in and took advantage of a sloppy game from the Romanian to get back to 4-4, finding a more consistent depth of shot once again. Last season was one to forget and Halep became more determined to make up for the shortcomings and od much better in 2018.

Stephens then saved the only break point she faced when serving for the set at 5-3, 30-40, and held.

The job was nearly done and it became official when Halep crushed a serve on match point that drew an error.

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