Simona Halep banishes painful memories to claim maiden Grand Slam with win over Sloane Stephens at Roland Garros

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Finally: Halep clinched a first Slam title on her fourth attempt.

Simona Halep erased the painful memories from last year’s Roland Garros final loss by claiming a maiden Grand Slam trophy with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sloane Stephens in Paris on Saturday.

On the very same court where she tasted defeat twice before in a French Open final, the top-ranked Halep fought back from a set and a break down to become just the second Romanian woman to win a Grand Slam title, following Virginia Ruzici’s triumph at Roland Garros in 1978.

Stephens, who was looking to add a second major trophy to the US Open crown she won last September, entered the contest with a stunning 6-0 record in career finals, while Halep was 0-3 in Slam finals, and had lost six of her last seven titles matches.

But Halep made sure there was no repeat of last year’s Paris final, and found her inner warrior to complete a memorable victory, on her favourite court, in her favourite tournament.

“First of all thank you guys, it was amazing. I felt your support. In the last game I felt I cannot breathe anymore. I tried not to repeat what happened last year. Honestly I cannot believe it,” Halep told the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier.

This was never going to be a match with winners raining on either end. With both players being excellent movers, getting the ball past either woman is no mean feat. A combined four winners were struck in the first four games but it was Stephens who drew first blood, breaking the Halep serve for a 3-1 advantage.

She needed to save a break point while serving for the opening set, but in 41 minutes, Stephens found herself one set away from a second Grand Slam trophy.

The American broke early in the second to open up a 2-0 advantage but Halep stormed back, taking four games in a row – including a stretch of nine consecutive points – to make a contest out of the final.

The 10th-ranked Stephens halted the Romanian’s streak though, and they were soon back on serve at 4-all.

Halep showed real grit the following game, pulling off two huge points from 30/30 to hold for 5-4. She got a first set point with a deep down-the-line forehand winner on Stephens’ serve the next game and converted right away to force a deciding set.

Seven minutes into the third, Halep had already broken serve and she was soon up 3-0, as Stephens’ unforced error count soared to 35.

Halep broken again on what was arguably the point of the match, chasing down a drop shot, then finding the backhand smash to go up 4-0.

The world No. 1 put pressure on Stephens in game six but the American held for 1-5, forcing Halep to serve for the championship.

Halep got her first championship point with an overhead and a service winner sealed the deal for her.

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