World No 1 Simona Halep haven’t won a Grand Slam despite being in the final for four times (thrice at French Open). Can she pull it off this time against Sloane Stephens who lifted a Major in her first attempt?
Sloane: Thank you everyone. Not the trophy I wanted but it’s still beautiful. Congrats to you and your team, Simona. To my team, you guys are amazing. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here with a smile on my face. I look forward to seeing you guys next year.
Simona: Last year was tough to talk. This year, it’s emotional to talk as well. Many congrats to Sloane. Last year you won the US Open, then you got back from the injury. I am sure we will play more finals in the future. It’s great to play here and this court is my favourite.
Halep: Honestly, I can’t believe it. In last game I didn’t breathe anymore. I did everything I could. It’s amazing what is happening now. (there’s some issue with the microphone and some bits of her speech was inaudible)
Halep also becomes the first Romanian to win a Grand Slam in 40 years since Virginia Ruzici won Roland Garros in 1978.
THERE IT IS! Halep has her face covered. She smiling and tearing at the same time. The sweetest moment of her career. And, the Slam success been long due as well. She climbs up the players box to hug her team. All her previous finals were three-setters as well. But today, after dropping the first set, she raised her game and was unstoppable in the decider!
Third set: Stephens 1-5 Halep (service: Stephens) Alright, so no bagel for Halep in this match. Stephens hangs in. Barely though. She was a break point down. Almost conceded it. But thanks to a couple of errors by Halep, the American will look to break Halep’s serve to stay in this final.
Third set: Stephens 0-5 Halep (service: Halep) One more game away from bagelling Stephens and winning her first-ever Slam. Stephens can’t believe what’s going on. A turnaroud looks more and more impossible. Halep holds easily and will look to break Stephens and win this one in style.
Third set: Stephens 0-4 Halep (service: Stephens) DOUBLE BREAK! The crowd goes “Sim-o-na Sim-o-na” as the world No 1 plays and wins an exhilarating rally at the net to take the second consecutive break of Set No. 3. She is well and truly ahead in this match. Stephens is panting and seems like she’s run out of fuel.
Third set: Stephens 0-3 Halep (service: Halep) The world No 1 has won 14 of the last 20 points played. She’s looking increasingly dangerous and the American looks tired at the other end.
Third set: Stephens 0-2 Halep (service: Stephens) BREAK FOR HALEP! Stephens is shaking her head. She trailed 15-30, hit a powerful forehand to level the scores but then missed an easy backhand down the line. Halep was quick to capitalise on her chance.
Third set: Stephens 0-1 Halep (service: Halep) The Stephens of the first set has gone missing now. It’s Halep who’s controlling the rallies. The momentum’s totally with her. Stephens went up to a 30-0 lead and looked good for a break but Halep levelled the scores with a lovely backhand winner and capitalised on a Stephens error and won a long rally to hold her serve.
Second set: Stephens 4-6 Halep (service: Stephens) BREAK! The tables have turned. Stephens is feeling the pressure now. She let Halep go to a 0-30 lead. She was reluctant to go for the lines. Kept the ball mostly in the the centre. But Halep, perhaps buoyed by the crowd support, went for the kill. She clinched set No 2 when Stephens hit one wide.
Second set: Stephens 4-5 Halep (service: Halep) Relentless attack of the baseline by Halep. There’s no jitters while serving now. She knows she can’t afford her level to dip now. She bludgeons her spin-laden forehands to hold her serve.
Second set: Stephens 4-4 Halep (service: Stephens) Stephens begins well, wins three straight points in the game. But makes a couple of unforced errors. But she prevails in a baseline exchange to get to 4-4. She still can get this done in two sets.
Second set: Stephens 3-4 Halep (service: Halep) STEPHENS GETS ANOTHER BREAK! Whoa, another break in this set. Drama. She perhaps realised that her level was dipping and went for the lines. Halep, when she should have been sharp, was sloppy. Grants a break at 0-40.
Second set: Stephens 2-4 Halep (service: Stephens) HALEP BREAKS AGAIN! Stephens seems like she’s losing her concentration. How quickly this match has turned!
Second set: Stephens 2-3 Halep (service: Halep) Break at 0-40 and now a hold at 40-0. Changing tides in this match?
Second set: Stephens 2-2 Halep (service: Stephens) BREAK FOR HALEP! Big, big moment in this match. Halep capitalises on a Stephens double fault to go 30-0 up. Then hits a winner to get herself three break points. Stephens then hits a forehand wide to give Halep the break. The world No 1 will be relieved.
Second set: Stephens 2-1 Halep (service: Halep) Halep’s getting increasingly frustrated. She’s making a lot more errors than she usually does. She’s trying hard but it’s just Stephens day. She, however, manages to close out the game with a huge forehand.
Second set: Stephens 2-0 Halep (service: Stephens) This is not what Halep would have envisioned before the match. Stephens has been relentless thus far in this match. Her defensive slices has been effective against Halep’s deep backhands. She’s winning all the crucial points of this match.
Second set: Stephens 1-0 Halep (service: Halep) EARLY BREAK! Halep under tremendous pressure. She was 15-40 down. But defended well to go to deuce. When faced with a break point again, she saved it with a brilliant down-the-line forehand. Then she tried to catch Stephens off guard by dropping the ball close to the net. But Stephens showed great anticipation: she ran and flicked the ball to the other end of the court (Halep could just stand and stare). Then, she took the early lead with a lob after luring Halep to the net.
First set: Stephens 6-3 Halep (service: Stephens) STEPHENS LEADS! The best game of this match so far. Halep, in her last chance to keep the set alive, played wonderfully. At 30-30, she ran to the net, slid and sliced the ball cross-court and Stephens couldn’t get to it. But the American defended and hit a big serve to take the set. She leads 1-0 in her first final at Roland Garros.
First set: Stephens 5-3 Halep (service: Halep) Another hold for Halep. Not much of a trouble. Looks like she’s slowly getting into the groove now. But the next game is crucial for the top seeded Romanian.
First set: Stephens 5-2 Halep (service: Stephens) Perhaps for the first time in this match, Stephens has looked a little unsure. She was down 0-15, then 15-30 but Halep at 30-30 plays a bad shot and Stephens takes the game. She’s one game away from taking the lead in this match.
First set: Stephens 4-2 Halep (service: Halep) Too much pressure from Stephens. Holding her serve seems to be a big task for Halep so far in this game. But she has somehow managed to do that after losing three games in a row.
First set: Stephens 4-1 Halep (service: Stephens) Halep seems to be doing everything she could. But Stephens has been uncrackable so far. Closes out the game at 40-30.
First set: Stephens 3-1 Halep (service: Halep) BREAK! Superb returning by Stephens. And, Halep is yet to get going in this match. She’s trying too much to crack her American opponent. But Stephens is cool, calm and has taken an early break in this final.
First set: Stephens 2-1 Halep (service: Stephens) So far, Stephens has looked more smooth in this match. Despite saying that she was in no pressure before the final, Halep looks like she’s a little nervous. Even the rallies she’s in control of, she hasn’t been able to close it out soon. Or, Stephens is more solid in her defence today. She gets to 2-1 without much trouble.
First set: Stephens 1-1 Halep (service: Halep) Long exchanges from the baseline (predictable). But Stephens seems to be in control more. Got to deuce but hit a forehand long and netted a 25-shot rally to lose the game.
First set: Stephens 1-0 Halep: The women’s singles final begins with Sloane Stephens serving. She hasn’t reached thus far in French Open before. But she has started off well, winning the game quite easily.
Alright then, Sloane Stephens set to serve...
Seems like a moderately cloudy day in Paris. So, unlikely that the match will be interrupted by rain.
NO PRESSURE, NO PRESSURE
Sloane: I just try to go day to day, take it moment by moment. I try not to put too much pressure on myself. That’s the easiest way to compete, when you’re not thinking about too many things. If you’re struggling with things and you’re not happy, it makes it a lot more difficult to have good results or success.
Simona: I don’t know who said that I feel pressure. Not me, obviously. I don’t feel pressure. I feel that it’s a big challenge for me. It’s a big chance to win my dream tournament. But this doesn’t mean it’s going to happen or something like that. I have just to play like I did yesterday (against Muguruza). So we will see what is going to happen tomorrow, but I just want to be smiling on court.
6:33 pm Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep make their way into the Court Philippe Chatrier.
Stephens has played Halep twice on clay and lost both games. But the American has conquered once the pressure of a Grand Slam final and knows what it takes to win one. And, Halep is vying to win her first-ever Slam.
Head to head: Simona Halep - 5, Sloane Stephens - 2.
6:00 pm Bonsoir, Mesdames et Messieurs! Welcome to the women’s singles final of Roland Garros. It mightn’t feature the opponents most of you would have predicted before the tournament but it isn’t very surprising either to see the world No 1 Simona Halep taking on world No 10 Sloane Stephens. Just as last year, Halep goes into the final as the favourite. Thrice she’s been in a Slam final but has been outplayed by her opponents.
But the Romanian said she’s under no pressure. “I’ve lost three times up until now. No-one died,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s a big chance but you never know, so I will stay chilled.” And, Stephens, despite a 15-8 win loss record this year, is capable of denying Halep once more a Slam win.