Maria Sharapova captured her second French Open title and fifth Grand Slam, when she battled past rising star Simona Halep, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, in an absorbing ladies final at Roland Garros.
Sharapova looked to be in control and heading for a comfortable win however the Romanian
kept coming back in the second set to force the longest ladies final at the French Open since 1996 when Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez.
Much like their recent final encounter in Madrid, It took just over three hours for the Russian to finally stave off the challenge of Halep, who was looking to become the first Romanian since 1978 to win the French Open title since her manager Virginia Ruzici.
It wasn’t to be for Halep who’s form over the last 13 months suggests that a Grand Slam is certainly a dream that will be fulfilled in the near future.
Halep entered the final without dropping a set over the two weeks in Paris and with a string of consistent results this season which has seen her reach the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, the semifinals at Indian Wells and now the French Open final, all the signs suggest a first Grand Slam is within her grasp.
Halep also defeated Agnieszka Radwanska in the final of Doha earlier in the year to lift her seventh WTA Tour title, however an impressive performance barely six weeks ago in the final of the Madrid Masters, where she pushed Maria Sharapova to the brink over three sets, is the one result that she probably felt could have carried her to the title in Paris.
For Sharapova it was the perfect conclusion to her clay-court season after suffering only one loss on the red dirt which came at the hands of Ana Ivanovic, and included titles in Madrid and Stuttgart.
In fact the Russian’s form on clay has been so dominant that she has only lost four matches
on the surface since 2012, the other three coming at the hands of Serena Williams.
Sharapova completed the career Grand Slam in 2012 when she lifted the title in Paris and yesterday’s victory saw her become the first Russian to lift the same Grand Slam on more than one occasion.
Halep, a junior winner of the title in 2008, showed few nerves when she went 2-0 up in the early exchanges however the Russian bounced back, reeling off five consecutive games to hold out 6-4 in the first set.
The second set saw the momentum shift both sides of the net and with Sharapova taking a
5-3 lead in the tiebreak it looked all over for the Romanian until she reeled off four consecutive points, leveling matters and taking into a third and deciding set.
It was anybodies call as to who would finally prevail however it was Sharapova that eventually won the final set 6-4, making it the twentieth consecutive match that she has won on clay over three sets.
An exhausted Sharapova paid tribute to her opponent after the final saying, "This was the toughest Grand Slam final I've ever played. All the respect to Simona. I thought she just played an unbelievable match today.
"I can't believe it. I never thought seven or eight years ago that I'd win more Roland Garroses when I was 27 years old than any other Grand Slam. It's a dream come true. This tournament means so much to me. And to think I've won it two times now, I'm so emotional, I can't even talk right now!"
Halep responded, "This is my first Grand Slam final speech, but I wish to have many more," Halep said. "First I'd like to say congratulations Maria. You're a great champion and you played really well, and you really deserved this title. I wish you all of the best for the future.
"I've had two incredible weeks here. It was an amazing tournament for me. I played my best and I'm happy you guys all came every match to support me. I want to thank all of you -- and also to the people back home in Romania, I just want to say thank you to all of you as well for all of your support."
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