Saturday, June 09, 2018

2018 FRENCH OPEN: Simona Halep Wins 1st Major (Over Sloane Stephens)

As I predicted, World #1 Simona Halep of Romania won her first major title today, defeating American Sloane Stephens 3-6 6-4 6-1. This was a seesaw match that resembled last year's final with Jelena Ostaphenko but this time Halep was the one who came back from a set and break down to even the match and then ran away with the deciding set as Stephens seemed to tire and lose focus as she lost the first five games and then avoided the bagel by holding once but lost the match when Halep easily served it out to win the championship.

Halep joins great players like Chris Evert and Kim Clijsters who lost their first 3 major finals and then went on to win multiple majors. She strengthens her case as the best player in the world, having been ranked #1 for most of the last year and is now also a major champion.

The match began with Halep looking extremely tight and making several unforced errors in the first game. One of Stephens' strengths is her metal equanimity and she calmly broke early and consolidated it to go up 3-1. Play stayed on serve with Sloane making very few errors and Halep pressing and overhitting; she lost the set 6-3. She then had the worst possible start to the second set by losing her serve and Sloane again consolidated and went up 2-0. Then, amazingly in the 4th game, serving 2-1 up, Sloane appeared to get nervous and and started making errors to lose the next three games and go down 2-4. However, the plot twists continued because now Halep was unable to maintain her lead and was broken while serving up 4-3 and the score was tied all up at 4-all. Halep then held her serve and in the 10th game earned a breakpoint which was a set point. She won the point and the match was dead even. Stephens definitely looked shaken and Hlep looked determined. She got behind in the first service game of the third set but was able to hold and after that really didn't look back, racing out to a 5-0 lead and eventually won the match 6-1 in the 3rd.

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