June 18, 2018

American, Romanian to face off in French Open finals

10 June 2018, 03:58 | Joan Schultz

Halep has won all seven matches against left-handers this campaign Credit Getty Images

Halep has won all seven matches against left-handers this campaign

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.

Paris: For a while 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 and claim her long-overdue first Grand Slam title on Saturday.

"After not playing for 11 months, I've had some great results", she said.

"Thanks guys it was awesome and I felt your support", Halep, twice a runner-up in Paris before Saturday, told the crowd who were chanting her name.

"Not the trophy I wanted but it's still handsome", Stephens said afterward, then pointed her words to Halep and said, "no one else I'd rather lose to than No. 1 in the world".

'I have been dreaming of this moment since I started to play tennis.

The tiebreaking ninth game of the third set essentially sealed the match, with Halep fending off three break points before claiming the lengthy battle.

Halep has come up short in two French Open finals in 2014 and 2016 as well as at this year's Australian Open.

Stevens netted a service return to bow out.

She yearned for a Grand Slam title to go with her WTA ranking.

Clijsters, here in Paris as a television analyst, is among the many who offered encouragement to Halep over the past year as she tried to rebound from her latest Grand Slam disappointments.

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"I'm happy", she said, "that I can have another chance".

It was not looking good for her well into the second set.

Halep is the second Romanian woman to win a Grand Slam singles trophy.

While Stephens temporarily halted her slide, getting to 4-all, Halep used two consecutive powerful forehand winners to hold in the next game. In the last game I felt like I could not breathe anymore. She's very strong on court. Moments after the match-winning point, she covered her face with her hands in a combination of disbelief and relief. Stephens has shown her mental toughness in defeating close friend Madison keys to win the US Open title in 2017.

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.

"I think I played one of my best matches on clay against a great opponent", added Halep, who will be appearing in her fourth final at the majors having also been beaten in Australia in January. Halep refused to panic, and slowly and surely Stephens started to lose heart. Stephens indicated to Halep she should raise it proudly overhead.

Halep listened. Now she will proudly display that bit of hardware at home.

Then in the deciding third set Halep played some magnificent tennis to storm into a 5-0 lead.

She had gone 0-3 in matches with a major trophy on the line before facing Stephens for the Roland Garros title.

German Andrea Petkovic - a former top-10 player now ranked 107th in the world - sent a message to Halep's critics.

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