PARIS (CBS News/AP) — Simona Halep kept telling everybody who would listen: She was a different player. She was stronger mentally. She wanted so much to finally win a Grand Slam title and was sure that, one day, she would.
After three losses in major finals, maybe Halep was trying to convince herself as much as anyone else she actually could do it. Either way, she was right.
Halep added Grand Slam trophy No. 1 to her No. 1 ranking, coming back from a set and a break down to beat Sloane 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.'”
Down 3-6, 0-2 at one point, Halep looked almost helpless against Stephens to start her anticipated match, as the American owned the first set, CBS Sports reported. But it was a different story entirely as the second set went on. Stephens slowed down and Halep turned up the heat with an intensity that led to her first Grand Slam title.
As the first Romanian to win a Grand Slam since 1978, the 26-year-old not only redeemed herself after a January loss at the Australian Open but delivered on a career-long hunt for a championship. She was 0-3 in previous Grand Slam title trips, including ones where she led in deciding third sets. And her victory didn’t lack for theatrics, as she looked dead set on a path to defeat after Stephens’ hot start and yet left her opponent without any answers in a 6-1 closing set.
Stephens had a valiant start in her quest to become the first American woman other than Serena Williams to capture two Grand Slams in one cycle since 2002. But Halep was as steady as could be down the home stretch on Saturday.