Simona Halep won her first slam by beating Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the finals at Roland Garros Saturday afternoon.
Simona Halep was lucky the fourth time.
Sloane had already notched her first major at the 2017 US Open. For Simona Halep, however, this was an opportunity to win her first slam. At 26, and with three unsuccessful slam finals under her belt, the pressure was squarely on her to win her first, and she was lucky the fourth time around.
Sloane Stephens dominated Simona Halep in the first set.
Simona began the match with three unforced to start 0–40 down on Sloane’s serve. Her first point came on an unforced backhand error from Sloane.
Earlier on in the match, Sloane used sharp angles to draw Simona out of the court, which was quite an effective strategy because of the depth in her shots. Sloane’s movement and anticipation seemed impeccable and had Simona running corner to corner at the start. Sloane’s defense was on song, in the first set and she had an answer to everything that Simona threw at her.
Simona Halep was given the run around the court by Sloane Stephens in the first set.
Sloane was deliberate about getting more depth on her returns of serve, which resulted in a few unforced from her in the second game of the set. Simona, on the other hand, seemed to apply extra mustard on her ground shots and won the last point of an extended rally.
Sloane was quite patient and composed earlier on in the match, and her unforced errors were due to the deliberate attempt to hit deeper shots by her. When relaxed, Sloane Stephens drives through, rather than hit, the ball which results in deeper ground shots. She has been taught the right techniques, on ground shots, as a child.
The early break for Sloane in the first set.
Sloan earned an early break for a 3-1 lead and made Simona stretch from one side of the court to another.
Sloane Stephens remained calm and composed and played her game while Simona Halep pressed too hard, and made a few unforced in the process. The “See-Mo-Na” chants in the stadium helped Halep press harder, and she won the next game for 4-2. Sloane, however, stayed calm and unperturbed, and her ground shots as fluid as ever.
Sloane was winning the points, but Halep refused to go away without putting up a fight.
Simona Halep was trying to find solutions to Sloane’s strong defense and steady game, but couldn’t break through the focused and composed, albeit a little passive, ball striking of Sloane. Sloane seemed content with pushing the ball to the baseline and waiting for Simona to make errors. However, towards the end of the seventh game, she woke up to hit a blistering winner on Halep’s return of serve, followed by a thundering inside-out which sealed the game for 5-2 in Sloane’s favor.
Simona Halep, however, never gave up and won the eighth game with a shot behind Sloane for 5-3.
The ninth game of the set witnessed an exciting drop-shot exchange won by Halep. Sloane Stephens was, however, able to close the set with a backhand error from Simona Halep.
The second set.
At 15-30 in the first game of the second set, Sloane Stephens crafted a penetrating crosscourt slice to take Simona Halep out followed by a backhand down-the-line winner for 30-all. Halep, on her part, saved a break-point but Sloane earned it back with a cross-court shot at the net. Sloane Stephens was able to break Halep in the very first game of the second set and then won her service game to go up a set and two games.
Simona Halep, however, never gave up playing aggressive and moving forward and won the first point of the third game, in the second, with a swing volley. She closed the game with another swing volley winner at 40-30 for 1-2.
The momentum shift in favor of Simona.
The third game marked a momentum shift with Simona pushing Sloane from corner to corner and finishing the point with a winner for 0-15. A double fault by Sloane Stephens on the next point gave Simona a 0-30 lead. Halep rode that slight turn of events in her favor all the way to taking the trophy home. She broke Sloane for 2-2 and then it was on.
Errors then began creeping into Sloane’s game, and she was broken again for a 4-2 lead by Simona.
Sloane regrouped to make it 4-4 in the second.
Sloane Stephens, however, regrouped and steadied the ship yet again. Simona lost the first point on her serve when her forehand sailed into the net. Another forehand error from Halep gave Sloane a 0-30 lead. Sloane’s aggressive down the line winner earned three break-points for her, and an unforced by Halep, on the next point, won the break back for Sloane.
Sloane began hitting the ball well again and came up with her first ace of the match on the second point of the game. She evened the score to 4-4.
In the ninth game of the set, Sloane seemed a little tired and began playing a little passive again. Simona maintained the aggression and reaped its reward for a 5-4 lead. Simona Halep also won the tenth game to win the second set.
The quality of tennis until the end of the second set.
The quality of tennis had been quite intense with a few momentum shifts until the end of the second set. Stephens appeared a little tired in the middle of second but regained steam to give a fight. Sloane, however, would have done better with an aggressive mindset with the lead of a set and a break.
Sloane Stephens had won 58, and Simona Halep 58 of the total points played by the end of the second.
The third set.
Simona Halep’s aggression coupled with her impenetrable defense broke the Sloane resistance and broke Stephens in the second game for a 2-0 lead in the third. Sloane Stephens made too many unforced and was not able to make a concerted comeback effort.
Sloane seemed to wait longer before striking the ball, and that allowed Halep the time to recover position in rallies and continue playing aggressively. Moreover, Sloane was not hitting her ground-shots with the same depth in the third as in the first set.
Sloane Stephens could not penetrate Simona Halep’s defenses in the third.
Simona Halep’s defense sapped all the fight out of Sloane Stephens, and a deflated Sloane saw herself 0-5 down in the third. The sixth game of the third seemed more like a formality with Sloane going through the motion to see herself out of the match at her very earliest. Sloane Stephens, however, began to play freely and made Simona Halep run corner to corner for three consecutive points to reach game point, but Halep’s defense brought it to deuce on the next. Sloane’s swing volley on the next earned her another game-point, and an error from Halep won Sloane the game for 5-1.
Simona’s first slam.
With Simona Halep serving for the match, and at 15-all, Simona came up with her first ace right on the line for 30-15. At 40-30 and the first championship point, Halep came up with a big first-serve which drew an error from Sloane Stephens and, just like that, Simona Halep won her first slam and a standing ovation from the crowd.
Darrin Cahill tears revealed how invested he was in Simona’s attempts and journey to win her first French Open and slam.
Only when you accept that death is inevitable, can you cheat death.
Simona Halep today cheated defeat by accepting it and then exhaled and played freely on the court. Sloane Stephens, on the other hand, did not play aggressive enough after being a set and break up. Stephens waited for Halep to lose and Halep refused to comply.