Simona Halep Beats Sloane Stephens to Win 2018 French Open Women's Final

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2018

Romania's Simona Halep reacts during her  women's singles final match against Sloane Stephens of the US, on day fourteen of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 9, 2018. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)        (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Simona Halep came from a set down to beat Sloane Stephens in the 2018 French Open final on Saturday, claiming her first Grand Slam title at the fourth attempt.

Stephens went a set and a break up—the same position Halep lost from in the French Open final last year—in the contest, but faded as Halep battled back to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Halep had lost her previous three Slam finals, including two at Roland-Garros, but outlasted the American to finally break her duck.


Fitness Key for Halep as Fatigue Costs Stephens

Stephens was imperious and impenetrable in the first set. Halep was hardly playing badly, but she might as well have been hitting against a brick wall:

Eurosport UK @Eurosport_UK

"One of the rallies of the tournament!" Incredible defence from Halep ... but it's not enough #RG18 https://t.co/4YLz3DjEoe

As Christopher Clarey of the New York Times noted, the Romanian simply could not find a way through:

The pair produced some superb rallies as they showcased why they're two of the best movers in the women's game, but Halep could not break down her nerveless opponent when going on the offensive.

The No. 1 seed looked in trouble when Stephens grabbed a break early in the second set, but the American failed to capitalise as Halep hit back with four consecutive games.

Former world No. 1 Tracy Austin suggested the 10th seed was showing signs of fatigue, while tennis writer Carole Bouchard noted the change in momentum:

Tracy Austin @thetracyaustin

Could Sloane be getting a little tired? Such great tennis up to the last two games. https://t.co/OzxMQfao4N

Carole Bouchard @carole_bouchard

Stephens game has started to be all over the place from 6-3, 2-0 up. On the opposite, Halep is playing better and better. A dreadful BH error from the American gives her the second set, 6-4.

From there, Halep was firmly in control, and after securing the second set to force a decider, she rattled off the first five games of the third set.

Stephens had often dictated their longer rallies with some excellent shot-making earlier on, but by the third, she did not have as much in the tank as her opponent:

Eurosport UK @Eurosport_UK

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!! Sensational tennis from @Simona_Halep and @SloaneStephens 🙌 #RG18 https://t.co/MrfAOg2hji

Halep, meanwhile, still looked fresh, perhaps benefiting from having gone to three sets in all of her Grand Slam final appearances, and she quickly saw out the match for the championship.


More Grand Slams Should Follow for Halep

After three failed attempts to win a major, particularly last year's heartbreaking defeat in Paris to Jelena Ostapenko, Halep's victory on Saturday will be an enormous weight off her shoulders.

Fellow pro Andrea Petkovic hit out at those who had criticised Halep for her record in finals, while Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times offered his congratulations:

Andrea Petkovic @andreapetkovic

CONGRATULATIONS, Simona - is what I‘m trying to say 🙏🏻 and thank you for teaching us all.

Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg

Simona Halep is the first ever "Slamless #1" to win a Slam while #1. Given all the crap that gets thrown at the women who have been in that role, it hasn't been easy. Strong woman, this Simona. #RG18

There have now been seven consecutive different women to win a Grand Slam singles title, stretching back to Angelique Kerber when she won the U.S. Open title in 2016.

That remarkable run will likely come to an end before long now that Serena Williams is back after giving birth to her first child, but Halep is well-placed to enjoy further Grand Slam success too.

At 26, she's still in the prime of her career, so there's a strong chance the world No. 1 will reach more finals in the coming years.

Her defensive skills are second to none, and without the added burden of needing to break her duck, Halep will be free to produce her best upon reaching any more finals.