Simona Halep reveals inspiration behind maiden Grand Slam success
10 June, 2018, 17:24 | Author: Suzanne Horton
Halep though recovered to take the second set 6-4, and at 3-0 up in the final set, she produced this absolutely stunning point to go just two games from securing her first Grand Slam.
One can only imagine what was going through Halep's mind serving at 5-1 but an ace steadied her nerves before she claimed her first Grand Slam at the 32nd attempt.
She did manage to make Stephens serve for the set, though, and was stepping into the court with more authority, bringing up her first break point.
"I felt "it's gone, it's not going to happen again, but it's OK".
It was the ideal way for the Romanian to banish the demons of her painful final defeat by Jelena Ostapenko 12 months ago, when she blew a lead of a set and 3-0.
The 26-year old is clearly a popular figure on the women's tour, and a host of names took to social media to congratulate her on her success, including Britain's shining light Johanna Konta.
Halep thought she had found a chink in the Stephens armour when the American served at 5-3 30-30 - a huge roar from the crowd erupting as she won a drop shot duel near the net. It's a special moment. "She was very close last season".
Already a victor of 16 WTA titles before arriving in Paris, Halep had undoubtedly been one of the world's best players for the last few years, and several of her fellow pros were quick to congratulate her latest achievement. She was favourite for this final but it was not simple.
US Open champion Stephens had looked set to lift a second Grand Slam trophy when leading 6-3, 2-0, but the American 10th seed wilted in hot conditions and Halep pounced.
By beating Spain's former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals she guaranteed that she extended her stay as the world's number one player - a position she has held now for 32 weeks in total.
The fans at Roland Garros preceded the match with a standing ovation for seven-time Grand Slam champion Maria Bueno after the Brazilian's death on Friday aged 78. "When I started to win games, I said that previous year it happened to me, the same thing", she said.
Halep produced not one, but two fantastic returns at the net to seal the game, eventually being the victor of the final set 6-1 to take home the trophy and 1.12 million euro prize money. "Because being number one without a Grand Slam, I always said, is not like everything, not 100 percent", she said.
"Congratulations to Simona. There is no-one else I'd rather lose to than the number one in the world", a gracious Stephens, who will rise to four in the rankings, said. Her patience finally paid off as she used all her experience to weather the Stephens storm. Honestly I can not believe it. Did the quality of Stephens' tennis actually help Halep to play more aggressively? "So I was patient".
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