Simona Halep is a Slam champion! Rallying from a set and a break down, Halep beat Sloane Stephens, 3-6 6-4 6-1 in Saturday’s French Open final. I was out during the day and have just managed to catch up with the final having successfully (wow!) avoided the scoreline. Overwhelming thoughts right now – I am just so, so happy for Simona.
This result didn’t look likely early doors as Halep was up against it. Stephens was incredibly solid at the start of the match. She continued much in the same vein as her three previous matches as she soaked up pressure, moved well and injected pace off the potent forehand side. Halep was hitting OK but mostly flat and staying quite deep with no intent to come forward or at least step inside the baseline. Stephens was totally clutch and managed to fend off a break point to serve out the first set, 6-3.
Stephens quickly went up a break in the second set. I was starting to think it was curtains for Halep and I was already imagining the disappointment at the end. At *0-2, Halep actually came forward to finish a pair of points, both times successfully. I felt this was a huge turning point. Halep just looked more positive and began to target the Stephens backhand more and more.
Stephens suddenly started to miss balls that she wasn’t doing so in the first set. The American played a really ropey service game to lose her early break in the second set. Another significant point was a double fault where someone shouted out “Haide Simona” in between the first and second serve. Halep won four games on the trot. In what was a rollercoaster set, Stephens then won seven points in a row and got back to 4-4. I wasn’t expecting that!
Just like the Muguruza match, Halep played a huge service game at *4-4 where she was aggressive and went after her shots. Again, that proved to be crucial as Halep broke to force a decider. All four of Simona’s Slam finals have gone the distance…
I thought Halep was absolutely inspired in the third set. It was interesting how the pair switched roles as it was now Halep who was the more consistent and Stephens was the player making the errors, going for more and lacking patience. After the first two games, I thought Stephens actually played decent in the decider. The game that saw Halep secure the double break was incredible (see point below).
Halep served out her first Slam title and in style. Credit to Stephens for her sportswomanship at the end and a classy speech. Obviously this would have been a disappointment for Sloane but I kind of felt content for her having already won a Slam. This was the first loss that Sloane has experienced in a tour level final having gone 6-0 before today.
As mentioned above, i’m absolutely thrilled for Simona. She deserves this so, so much! She has kept on putting herself in the business end of Slams and this was her time. I was nervous for Simona coming into this final and even more so when down a set and a break. To turn the match around against an in-form Stephens is such an impressive mental effort. She didn’t panic and kept plugging away. All the near misses have surely made this moment even more special. I was losing it when Simona hugged Darren and then her parents. Wonderful scenes.
Simona’s a Slam champ! Big respect 💪💪💪