Simona Halep beats Sloane Stephens for first Grand Slam title

PARIS — Simona Halep finally got the major breakthrough that she had been waiting for. American Sloane Stephens, however, didn’t make it easy.
Halep added Grand Slam trophy No. 1 to her No. 1 ranking, coming back from a set and a break down to beat Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 Saturday and win the French Open championship in a match made up of lengthy points and key momentum swings.
“When I was down a break in the second set,” Halep told the crowd afterward, “I thought, ‘Everything is gone. I’m going to start to relax and enjoy the match.’”
The 26-year-old Romanian began the muggy afternoon on Court Philippe-Chatrier having been to this stage before but never able to display her best. She lost in two previous appearances in a final at Roland Garros, against Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapenko in 2017. Halep then fell to 0-3 with a trophy on the line at the Australian Open in January, where she was beaten by Caroline Wozniacki.
“I just tried not to repeat the same as last year,” Halep said. “I did everything I could.”
Simona Halep, after going 0-3 in her previous Grand Slam finals, won the French Open against Sloane Stephens on Saturday. THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
She became just the fourth woman since the introduction of the WTA rankings in 1975 to win her first major after being ranked No. 1, joining Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo and Caroline Wozniacki.
Halep also becomes the second Romanian woman to win a Grand Slam singles trophy. Her manager, Virginia Ruzici, won the French Open 40 years ago.
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Halep began slowly, unable to solve Stephens, the 10th-seeded American who won her first Grand Slam at last year’s US Open. Both women are adept at defense, figuring out ways — via speed, strength, skill and instinct — to get nearly every ball back over the net. They’re also both able to switch to offense in a snap.
Those traits lent themselves to engaging exchanges of 10 strokes, 20 strokes or more — violent smacks, not looping shots — sometimes interrupted by spectators who would gasp or begin to clap, thinking that a point was over when it still wasn’t.
Early on, it seemed effortless for Stephens, who broke for a 3-1 edge when Halep put a forehand in the net.
When Halep ended a 14-stroke point by pushing a backhand wide, Stephens owned the first set. She wheeled toward her box, which included U.S. national soccer team player Jozy Altidore, and shook a fist.

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