A few tactical changes made all the difference for Simona Halep

A few tactical changes made all the difference for Simona Halep

Paris: Simona Halep fought back from a set and a break down to finally claim her first Grand Slam title by beating Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a gruelling French Open final on Saturday.

Just six weeks after being ranked 957 in the world, Stephens claimed her maiden Grand Slam title by thrashing good friend Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 at Flushing Meadows last September.

The world No. 1 triumphed over the US Open champion, battling back from a set and a break down to win 3-6 6-4 6-1 in a breathless final. "The most important thing is that I have taken those opportunities". "I believed. And I never gave up".

Halep, 16-14 overall in tour finals, has lost twice at that stage at the French Open, to Maria Sharapova in 2014, then to Jelena Ostapenko after leading by a set and 3-0 in the second a year ago.

But the Romanian said that she managed to use those memories to her advantage, knowing that there was still a way back into the match in her third French Open final. After establishing herself as an American tennis star by winning the 2017 U.S. Open, Stephens looked - at least for the first hour of the match - in command and on her way to becoming a more prominent, respected force in women's tennis.

Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens will face off in the final of women's singles French Open 2018. And on Saturday at Roland Garros, Halep-loser of her first three major finals-finally broke through, elevating her legacy and further cementing her status as the world's best player.

Maybe all of those losses in Grand Slam finals helped Simona Halep actually win one.




"She [Stephens] is a great player and it's always tough to play against her", she said.

The 26-year-old had to wait for her 32nd appearance at a Grand Slam event to win one at last. 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. It also was a rematch of the US Open final won by Stephens in September a year ago. 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.

Having worked her way into a strong position in the point Halep netted a straightforward backhand and let her off the hook. It's the first semifinal between a pair of American women at Roland Garros since Serena Williams beat Jennifer Capriati on her way to the 2002 title.

But in the contest of two of the best movers in tennis, Halep had to work hard for her first hold, prevailing in a 25-shot rally for 1-1.

"And then when I started to win games, I said that past year happened to me - same thing, I was set and a break up and I lost the match".

Halep in stride had Stephens grasping.

Halep survived a pressurised service game and then turned the screw, eking out a break point from which Stephens planted wide to take the contest to a deciding set.

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