French Open 2018: Halep overcomes demons to win first Grand Slam crown

The Romanian world number one came from a set and a break down, to win in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in Paris to win her first major title at the fourth attempt

French Open 2018: Halep overcomes demons to win first Grand Slam crown
Photo: Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Simona Halep laid the ghosts of her past to rest at the French Open to win her first Grand Slam title, coming from a set and 2-0 down in the final to beat American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 at Roland Garros.

In her fourth major final, the Romanian world number one rode through another nervous final performance to eventually overpower her opponent, as the 26-year-old cruised home in the decider having broken the will of the defending US Open champion.

For Halep it an emotional ending on her journey to join a heady list of names on tennis' role of honour who have claimed a major crown.

Halep suffers early nerves

Having overcome Garbiñe Muguruza to retain her top spot in the women's rankings with a dominant display, few expected Stephens to hold a candle to her opponent across the net, with Halep boasting a superior 5-2 record.

The American however was not overawed by the occasion as she showed at Flushing Meadows last September and seized the early initiative breaking the two-time finalist in the French capital and pushing out to a 5-2 lead.

The Stephens power game was thus far usurping Halep, who opting to play behind the base line was unable to dictate the pace of the match.

 

Stephens threatens more Halep woe

The favourite was visibly nervous as she fought to get a foothold in proceedings desperate to end her major final hoodoo. The Florida native however was refusing to bow to what was a rather partisan crowd in favour of Halep and notched the opening set, as the collective fears on Philippe Chatrier grew.

Those feeling became panic when Stephens pushed out to a 2-0 lead, before the American - within four games of winning her second slam - felt the pressure of the occasion and tightened up.

Suddenly it was the bullish Stephens who could not win and point, as Halep leveled to 4-4, before nosing ahead. As The American was asked to stay in the second set, Halep sensed her moment and pounced to break again, taking the second set and forcing a decider.

 

Romanian overwhelms broken Stephens

The tide of momentum had shifted dramatically and after Halep held comfortably, both the Stephens serve and game crumbled.

The world number one broke twice consecutively to open up a commanding 4-0 advantage in the third - then holding her own service game to stand four points from glory.

The American dug in to prevent a bagel with Halep now bent on putting the contest to bed, but again made her opponent serve out for her inaugural title. A double break up at 30-30, a few nervous moments came but by now there was nothing to prevent a case of third time lucky in Paris.

Halep served for the match wide to the base line as Stephens netted, and the Romanian stood and buried her head in her hands in disbelief having finally put an end to doubts over her mentality at the final hurdle.

Celebrating with her coach Darren Cahill, Halep clutched the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen with glee and finally put an end to her emotional and exhaustive journey for tennis greatness.