Crowd will be behind Simona during French Open final: Boris Becker

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World No. 1 Simona Halep finally joined that crew by winning her first Grand Slam trophy at Roland Garros over Sloane Stephens.

A champion at last, after failing here against Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapeno last year, Halep let the tears flow the very second that Nadia Comaneci hugged her tight, as she clambered into the stands to celebrate with family and friends, including her manager, Virginia Ruzici, the only other Romanian to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, 40 years ago. Stephens is one of the best movers on tour, and while Halep has started to become more aggressive, she certainly can't hit many winners against the American and will have to rely on mistakes from her opponent. Halep has been on the cusp of winning Slams before, but she has cracked mentally on every occasion, losing all three of her finals in three sets.

Halep said afterewards: 'In the last game I felt that I could not grip [the racket] any more, so I just tried not to repeat the previous year. "I'm going to start to relax and enjoy the match'".

"So we will see what is going to happen tomorrow, but I just want to be smiling on court".

It was as if Halep were not only playing on crushed red brick but also against a red brick wall. She was stronger mentally. "It's a special moment".


"Another great opportunity on Saturday, and I'm really looking forward to it", said Stephens, whose late father, John, was the 1988 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with the New England Patriots. When she beat Julia Goerges to advance to the quarters, it was her first quarterfinal appearance at a major tournament since 2013 Wimbledon.

"I think there's a little bit of poetic justice that Simona Halep won in the way that she did here", he said on ITV.

Stephens, wearing a medical boot after her surgery, worked for the TV station for several weeks while out injured, and Carillo spent a lot of time with her.

Stephens had never previously got past the fourth round in Paris before this year. "I've been dreaming of this since I was 14".

"Thank you, guys - it was unbelievable and I felt your support", Halep said afterwards.


However, fast-forward a year and Stephens is a US Open champion, is about to reach at least the number four ranking in the world and on Saturday will take on Halep in the 2018 French Open final. But whatever comes next, the spirit and elegance Halep showed in her victory on Saturday will define her for years to come.

Yet at 2-4 down the American dug in and took advantage of a sloppy game from the Romanian to get back to 4-4, finding a more consistent depth of shot once again. Halep's stamina and will to rally from being down a set is something that sets her apart from numerous best players in the world.

"Not much you can really do about that".

Halep has won five of her past nine matches against the 12th-seeded Kerber, including their most recent encounter in the Australian Open semifinals when she saved two match points.


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