Simona Halep beats Sloane Stephens to break grand slam duck

Heather Diaz
June 9, 2018

And when Saturday's fourth chance arrived, Halep began slowly, unable to solve Stephens, the 10th-seeded American who won her first Grand Slam title at last year's US Open.

Halep entered the final as the favorite given her clay-court prowess, higher ranking and holding a 5-2 head-to-head record against her rival. In the last game I felt I could not breathe any more.

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.

Her defensive skills are second to none, and without the added burden of needing to break her duck, Halep will be free to produce her best upon reaching any more finals. Her manager, Virginia Ruzici, won the French Open 40 years ago.

Stevens netted a service return to bow out.

She'll reach the top five anyway next week, but what happened just after the 2-0 lead wound up ratifying the idea of Halep as a fighter, an idea cemented when she lost the 2018 Australian Open final to Caroline Wozniacki in three sets and wound up treated for dehydration.

Her first win in the tour since NY arrived in February in Acapulco. She reeled off nine straight points at one stage, breaking Stephens's serve for the first time in the match and at love. I will think that I will make many people happy.

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Halep's road to her first major was extraordinarily hard, but likewise, this French Open crown represents more of a beginning than an end.

Halep, 26, had lost all three of her Slam finals going into this match, including last year's final against Jelena Ostapenko. "(It) shows me that I have enough patience, I have enough power inside to stay calm", Halep said.

For more than a set, Stephens, now the top-ranked American, outclassed her opponent, using unshakable defense and baseline aggression to withstand everything Halep threw her way, confounding the world No. 1.

It was as if Halep were not only playing on crushed red brick but also against a red brick wall.

Stephens, 25, was bidding for her second Grand Slam title following her success at the US Open in September - a title she claimed just six weeks after she was ranked 957th in the world having had 10 months out with a foot injury. She's very strong on court. The maiden American finalist here not named Williams since Jennifer Capriati triumphed in 2001, broke soon to 3-1 pulling Halep to the backhand corner and forcing her to net the ensuing forehand.

The Romanian broke at the start of the second set and then held for 6-3 as Kerber dropped her serve again in the ninth game. In the victory, Halep won 61 percent of her first serve points and 50 percent of her second serve points.

The match was all but ended as Halep clinched the double break in game four after some magnificent defending in one of the points of the match.

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