French Open 2018: Champion Simona Halep thought chance to win 'had gone'

By Jonathan JurejkoBBC Sport at Roland Garros
Simona Halep covers her eyes after sealing victory
After defeats in the 2018 Australian Open final and the 2014 and 2017 French Open finals, Simona Halep has finally won a Grand Slam title
French Open 2018
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 27 May-10 June
Coverage: Daily live radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 live, the BBC Sport website and app.

Simona Halep thought another chance to win her first Grand Slam title "had gone" before she fought back to win the French Open.

Halep, 26, was a set and a break down against American 10th seed Sloane Stephens but won 3-6 6-4 6-1.

The Romanian had lost all three of her previous Grand Slam finals, including last year's Roland Garros showpiece.

"I felt 'it's gone, it's not going to happen again, but it's OK. I have just to play'," the world number one said.

Halep led by a set and a break in last year's defeat by unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, and said she used the experience of being on the wrong end of that fightback to help her turn around Saturday's match.

"When I started to win games, I said that last year the same thing happened to me," she said. "So I said there is a chance to come back and win it,

"I believed in that, and my game was more relaxed. I could make more things on court, and that's why I could win."

Halep rose to the top of the world rankings for the first time in October and has been the leading player on the WTA Tour this year.

But a first major title had eluded her until now, and she said she "could not breathe" as she closed in on it.

"I was very strong mentally to finish that," she said. "It's a special moment. I was dreaming for this moment since I started to play tennis.

"Roland Garros is my favourite Grand Slam. I always said that if I'm going to win one, I want it to be here."

Wimbledon next... but first a party and a holiday!

Simona Halep dashes up to her box after winning the French Open
Simona Halep dashed up to her player box to celebrate with her nearest and dearest

Halep said she would celebrate with a "big" party in Paris on Saturday night, then take a holiday before switching her attention to the grass-court season, which culminates at Wimbledon next month.

There she will look to improve on a solitary semi-final appearance in 2014, having lost in the quarter-finals in both of the past two years.

"The grass is coming, I have few tournaments ahead, but now I'm off," she said.

"So I'm not going to talk about the next tournaments. I just want to enjoy this moment."

She said having to answer repeated questions about never having won a Grand Slam was "the toughest" and thanked her "really special" family and friends for giving her the strength to achieve her dream.

"Without them probably I couldn't come back after losing three finals," she said.

Stephens 'glad' for Halep

Sloane Stephens
Sloane Stephens was left wondering what might have been after she dominated the first set

Stephens, 25, was bidding for her second Grand Slam title following her success at the US Open in September - a title she claimed just six weeks after she was ranked 957th in the world having had 10 months out with a foot injury.

Having never gone beyond the fourth round at Roland Garros before this year, she made a strong start against Halep.

The American dominated the first set and went a break up in the second before Halep won 11 of the next 14 games to clinch the title.

Asked what had changed, Stephens said: "She raised her game, raised her level.

"Not much you can really do about that. I competed the best I could, and the better player won the match.

"She's had a tough journey. I think winning here is very special for her and I'm glad she finally got her first Slam. It's a beautiful thing, very special.

"No matter how hard the adversity that you go through, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm glad she finally got her light."


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