Story highlightsHalep beats Stephens 3-6 6-4 6-1Wins first major title after three losses in grand slam finalsStephens lost her first final
Paris (CNN)Seeing her opponents come back against her in grand slam finals, this time Simona Halep turned the tables to end her drought.
Follow @cnnsport The Romanian rallied from a set and break deficit to beat Sloane Stephens 3-6 6-4 6-1 and win the French Open on Saturday along with her first grand slam title following three near misses. With chants of “Si-mo-na, Si-mo-na” reverberating around Philippe-Chatrier court and Romanian flags in abundance, the majority of fans in attendance in Paris — including Romania’s gymnastic trailblazer Nadia Comaneci — certainly approved. They, along with Stephens, knew of the 26-year-old’s past heartbreak. Twelve months ago at Roland Garros, the world No. 1 relinquished a set and 3-0 lead against Jelena Ostapenko in the final. That was the most painful memory. Read MoreAnd then this January, Caroline Wozniacki overturned a break hole at 3-4 in the final set at the Australian Open. If that wasn’t enough, in her other grand slam final in 2014 at the French Open, Halep succumbed in a three-set battle to Maria Sharapova. That angst, though, will be largely forgotten now. If there were tears for Halep, they were tears of joy. Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Simona Halep beat Sloane Stephens in three sets Saturday to win the French Open and her first major after losing three grand slam finals. Hide Caption 1 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Halep finally got her name on the trophy, 10 years after winning the junior title at Roland Garros. Hide Caption 2 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Rafael Nadal kept alive his bid for an unprecedented 11th French Open title with a dominant semifinal win over Juan Martin del Potro in Paris.Hide Caption 3 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Austria’s Dominic Thiem is the pretender to Rafael Nadal’s claycourt throne after booking a place in his first French Open final with victory against Marco Cecchinato. Hide Caption 4 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Nadal was rattled for a set and a half against Argentine Diego Schwartzman but he took advantage of an overnight rain delay and returned with renewed vigor to win in four sets to reach the semifinals. Hide Caption 5 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Schwartzman ended Nadal’s 37-set winning streak at Roland Garros after taking the opener, but rain delayed their quarterfinal overnight and he went down in four sets to the resurgent Spaniard. Hide Caption 6 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Halep had reached her second consecutive French Open final with a straight sets win over Garbine Murguruza of Spain. Halep retained her world No.1 spot as she bids for a first grand slam title. Hide Caption 7 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Reigning US Open champion Stephens (right) beat fellow American Madison Keys to reach her first French Open final. Hide Caption 8 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Two-time champion Maria Sharapova, playing her first French Open since returning from a 15-month suspension for taking the banned heart drug meldonium, lost to Muguruza in the quarterfinals. Hide Caption 9 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Sharapova was due to meet old rival Serena Williams in the fourth round but the American pulled out ahead of the match with a shoulder injury.Hide Caption 10 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Novak Djokovic is undergoing a slump in his stellar career but was hoping to use the French Open as a springboard for better things. However, he lost out to Italy’s Marco Cecchinato in the quarterfinals.Hide Caption 11 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?The unseeded Cecchinato, who had never previously won a round at a grand slam, beat Djokovic, the 12-time major champion and 2016 French Open winner, in four sets. Hide Caption 12 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?World No. 3 Alexander Zverev was expected to be one of the main challengers to Nadal but after squeezing through three five-set matches he fell to Thiem in straight sets in the quarterfinals. Hide Caption 13 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was at Roland Garros watching Williams beat Julia Goerges in the third round.Hide Caption 14 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?No Frenchman has triumphed on home clay since Yannick Noah in 1983 and the drought continued this year. No French players made the fourth round. Hide Caption 15 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Williams turned heads in this black catsuit as she made her first grand slam appearance for 16 months following the birth of her daughter in September. The 23-time grand slam champion said it made her feel like a “warrior princess” but added it helped with her circulation. Hide Caption 16 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?The Williams sisters teamed up in doubles, but after overpowering Japan’s Miyu Kato and Shuko Aoyama (pictured) in their first match they crashed out in the third round.Hide Caption 17 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Nadal is known as the “King of Clay” since winning his first French Open on his debut as a 19-year-old. No player has won the same grand slam as many times as the Spaniard has in Paris. Hide Caption 18 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?The French Open oozes Parisian chic and is a springtime rite in the capital. Hide Caption 19 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Djokovic’s recent results suggested he could be turning the corner in his recent struggles. A win on day two was a decent start for the 2016 champion, who had slipped to 22 in the world. Hide Caption 20 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?On day one, defending champion Jelena Ostapenko was dethroned by Kateryna Kozlova.Hide Caption 21 of 22 Photos: French Open 2018: Title No. 11 for Rafa?Bad news traveled in two as Venus Williams also suffered a shock exit after losing to Wang Qiang.Hide Caption 22 of 22“Well, it’s an amazing moment,” she told reporters. “I was dreaming for this moment since actually I started to play tennis. It’s my favorite grand slam. I always said that if I’m going to win one, I want it to be here.”READ: Nadal, Thiem battle in men’s final READ: Cecchinato stuns DjokovicREAD: Lucky loser’s long journey READ: Injured Serena pulls out The diminutive Halep pummeled a serve on match point. She raised her arms in delight before going into the stands to embrace hugs with her entourage in a now customary scene for grand slam winners. Halep doubtWhen Stephens led by a set and 2-0, though, few probably envisaged a comeback, Halep included.”I said, ‘It’s not going to happen again, but it’s okay. I have just to play,'” she said. “And then when I started to win games, I said that last year it happened to me, same thing, I was set and a break up and I lost the match. “So I said there is a chance to come back and win it. So I believed in that, and my game was more relaxed. I could make more things on court, and that’s why I could win.”
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 9, 2018 The reversal was all the more impressive considering Stephens had never lost any of her six finals. In her lone prior grand slam final, the 25-year-old eased past friend Madison Keys last September at the US Open. Her disappointment didn’t stop Stephens from expressing happiness for her older peer. Fellow players including twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova congratulated Halep, too. “I think she’s had a tough journey,” said Stephens. ‘I think winning here is very special for her and I’m glad she finally got her first slam. It’s a beautiful thing.”No matter how hard the adversity that you go through, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m glad she finally got her light,” added Stephens, who won in New York after undergoing foot surgery.
Simonaaaaa! You did it. So happy for you. Enjoy every second. You deserve this moment so much ?❤️ #RG18
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) June 9, 2018 Halep’s influential coach Darren Cahill said all those difficult defeats contributed to Halep’s victory Saturday. “I think she’s grown up a lot in the last 12 months,” Cahill told a group of reporters. “Sometimes the losses make you mature pretty quickly. You can go one way with your career and go downwards or you can suck it up, work a little bit harder and try to do it again — and that’s the way she went.”Halep entered the final as the favorite given her clay-court prowess, higher ranking and holding a 5-2 head-to-head record against her rival. But in the contest of two of the best movers in tennis, Halep had to work hard for her first hold, prevailing in a 25-shot rally for 1-1. It was an indication of things to come — in the first set. Better start for StephensA composed looking Stephens was indeed the first to break through, gaining a 3-1 advantage. Stephens regularly threatened the Halep serve, though finally faced a break point at 5-3. To Halep’s dismay, she sent a backhand into the net. A rattled Halep was broken to start the second and Stephens built on the lead by digging out of a 0-30 hole. On the last point of the second game, Stephens scampered and put up a superb lob that prompted a Halep smash error. JUST WATCHEDSloane Stephens wins US OpenReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Sloane Stephens wins US Open 03:22The final threatened to be over in quick time. “Well, we were very, very worried,” Virginia Ruzici, Halep’s Romanian manager who won the title 40 years ago, told a group of reporters. “Sloane was playing really well. I think Sloane also got a little bit tired at one point and she started to miss a few. And so Simona could immediately get back into the match.”Halep reeled off nine straight points to lead 3-2 on serve, then broke for 4-2. Stephens got back to 4-4 but that was the end of her resistance. Momentum changeShe was broken to end the set, making a pair of unforced errors down the line on the second and last point of the game as she attempted to alter her patterns facing a now more aggressive opponent. And a more efficient one. Whereas Halep hit four winners and 10 unforced errors in the first set, she totaled 14 and 16 in the last two. They weren’t bad numbers at all given the surface, occasion and how well Stephens patrols the court. Both players went off for a toilet break yet it did little to derail Halep, although she did have to get out of a 0-30 hole in the first game. As Halep scurried to chase a defensive swat that turned into a drop shot for Stephens and won the point for 4-0, Cahill leaped out of his chair and pumped his fist. After coaching Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi, the Australian experienced more grand slam success with Halep. JUST WATCHEDFrench Open outsider’s meteoric riseReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
French Open outsider’s meteoric rise 01:10The job was almost done and it became official when Halep crushed the serve on match point that drew an error. “She is a big champion,” said Ruzici. “She is huge, she has such qualities. She is the fastest player on the tour and other than that she has all the shots right now.” Halep forecast a “big party tonight” in Paris. “I’m waiting for it,” she said. Visit our tennis page for more news, videos and contentShe won’t have to wait any longer for a grand slam title.