Halep beats Stephens to win 2018 French Open final: live stream
After losing the first set, Simona Halep fought back against Sloane Stephens to win the first Grand Slam of her career.
Simona Halep finally ended her wait for a maiden Grand Slam triumph at the French Open on Saturday as she recovered from a set and a break down to defeat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a titanic tussle on Court Philippe Chatrier.
The world number one, who became the second Romanian woman to win a major after Virginia Ruzici triumphed on the same stage in 1978, admitted after the game that she thought she had blown her chance in her fourth Grand Slam final appearance when Stephens, whose power had been causing Halep considerable difficulty in the opening set, carved out a 2-0 lead in the second. Until Saturday, the American had never lost in a final.
The Romanian had spoken earlier in the fortnight about how she felt mentally stronger going into this year’s tournament and she drew on all of her available strength to win four games on the bounce from that position, with memories of last year’s final no doubt encroaching on her game plan.
A year earlier, Halep had held a set and a break advantage against Jelena Ostapenko but eventually lost in three. On Saturday, the table were turned as Stephens suddenly lost her way despite being firmly in the driving seat. The 10th seed’s unforced error count hit 15 in the second set as Halep started to mix up her approach to draw her opponent more into the court and out of the baseline comfort zone Stephens had enjoyed such profit from in the opening set.
At the same time, the unerring accuracy the American displayed when aiming for the lines deserted her, especially off the backhand side, while Halep’s defence often left her opponent staring in disbelief over the net.
Although Stephens rallied to claw her way back to 4-4 with another break the wind was in Halep’s sails and the American’s radar was well off in game 10 of the second. Serving to stay in the set, Stephens missed an inviting forehand into unguarded court and then another down-the-line backhand to cede the game and the set.
From there it was merely a matter of when, not if, Halep would lift the title as the world number one raced to a 5-0 lead in the decider. Stephens avoided the ignominy of losing the third set of a Grand Slam final to love by holding in the sixth game but that merely delayed the inevitable and despite furious resistance from the American, Halep held her nerve and her serve – her first ace of the match was providentially timed – and sealed victory when she sent down a whiplash delivery on match point that Stephens could only dump into the net.