After the first set, it looked like Simona Halep’s Grand Slam jinx was going to continue as she lost the set 6-3 to Sloane Stephens but she came storming back to take the next two, 6-4 6-0, winning her first Grand Slam at the fourth time of asking.
In her third French Open final, after 2014 and 2017, 2018 finally brought the crown in the jewel for the nippy Romanian world No.1.
Down a set and a break in the second, Halep rose to the challenge and started moving the American around the court to the joy of an openly pro-Halep crowd at the Philippe-Chatrier Court.
Amidst shouts of her name, she found a way around the steadiness of Stephens, who had won her first Grand Slam at the 2017 US Open. In the first set, Stephens used the Romanian’s aggressiveness against her, taking pace off her returns and moving her side to side while she economized her own movement.
Stephens raced to a 2-0 lead in the second but then was forced to make more forced and unforced errors as Halep cranked up the pressure and chased every shot. She then won 14 of the next 20 points to bring herself level in the match.
In what was a closely fought first two sets, the third was like a procession as Halep’s determination shifted the balance completely to her side. She showed she had learned from her two losses, especially the loss in 2017 to Jelena Ostapenko after leading by a set and 3-0 in the second. Stephens did not get on the board in the third set until the sixth game.
Halep served out to finally snag a well-deserved first Grand Slam title. It was a physically grueling encounter as Halep stayed her steadiest and served her first ace of the match to take a 30-15 lead in the seventh game of the third. With Stephens sending a return long – Halep could finally let the emotions erupt. Finally, finally, she had done it!
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.
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