World number one Simona Halep finally won her first Grand Slam title with a gutsy comeback victory over American 10th seed Sloane Stephens in the French Open final. Halep, who had lost her three previous major finals, went a set and a break down at Roland Garros. But the 26-year-old Romanian battled back to take a see-saw second set against the US Open champion. She then raced away with the third to win 3-6 6-4 6-1.
“I did everything I could. It is amazing what is happening now,” Halep said. “I have been dreaming for this moment since I started playing tennis.”
Halep clinched victory with her first match point, Stephens unable to return a powerful first serve. The top seed dropped her racquet in celebration, covering her face with both hands before Stephens walked around the net to warmly hug the champion.
Given a standing ovation by the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd, a tearful Halep climbed into the stand behind the baseline to celebrate with her family and coaching team.
Halep had lost in two previous French Open finals – to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapenko in 2017 – and against Caroline Wozniacki in this year’s Australian Open showpiece.
The world number one said in the build-up to this match that she felt relaxed and would not be fazed by the pressure of winning her first Slam. And so it proved as she delivered in front of an expectant crowd.
Halep was the favourite to finally land her first major title against an opponent who is better known for her success on hard courts rather than clay. But she was beaten by Stephens’ brilliance, not herself, in the opening set.
After that Halep took control, winning four games in a row early in the second as momentum turned. An early break in the third set, with Stephens appearing to tire, put the Romanian in command.
Backed by plenty of noisy Romanian support, Halep broke again for 4-0 after an astonishing point in which she wore Stephens down with her relentless returning. She raced through a hold to love and, after taking Stephens to deuce, served out to win her first Grand Slam at the 33rd attempt.