Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Simona Halep speaks out after winning the French Open

Halep has won all seven matches against left-handers this campaign Halep has won all seven matches against left-handers this campaign Credit Getty Images
Rita Gibson | 10 June, 2018, 00:24

World No 1 Simona Halep claims she is under no pressure as she goes in search of an elusive first Grand Slam title at the French Open on Saturday.

Having never gone beyond the fourth round at Roland Garros before this year, she made a strong start against Halep. The last Romanian woman to have won the Paris Open, in 1978, now works as an agent for Halep and had been cheering her from the stands. I competed the best I could, and the better player won the match. She played to win and is now the sixth player to have won the women's singles title in Paris after winning the girls' singles title, behind Francoise Durr, Mima Jausovec, Hana Mandlikova, Jennifer Capriati and Justine Henin.

However, despite how well Halep has played up to this point, she has a lot of showing and proving to do, as she's developed a history of choking in final appearances.

In order to win her first Grand Slam title, Simona Halep had to reflect on one of her most painful defeats.

Stephens gets the opportunity to prove that blowing it against Halep won't be a downturn in her career.

However, the American is the reigning US Open champion - so what's the plan when she faces world No.1 Halep? She capped off the fourth game with a wonderful victor at the net. "Stephens, on the other hand, modified her game beautifully to suit the needs of clay".

"It's always hard playing someone from your country and such a good friend", Stephens said, "so I was really pleased to be able to get through that and play some good tennis". The question was which dominant opponent would be waiting for her. But Stephens can not easily crack off that side, having good sensibility even when she's forced to defend from the left angle. When Stephens is keeping the ball in play and aggressive defensively, she's one of the tougher players on tour to beat. Halep turned around and raised her arms, looking relieved as much as pleased. Halep is a three-time runner-up at majors, including in Paris in 2014 and 2017.

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Between Stephens' finishing ability and Halep's overdue karma, something had to give. She used her stunning defense to hit a perfectly placed lob and force Halep to mis-hit an off-balance smash. She is now slotted at No. 4 in the world.

A year ago on Court Philippe Chatrier, Halep led Jelena Ostapenko by a set and a break, only for the unseeded Latvian to mount an unlikely fightback and deal her a crushing defeat.

Stephens struck with the crucial break in the opening set in just the third game as a searing forehand clipped the outside of the line.

Halep, however, surrendered the advantage and it went to 4-4. The crowd roared her on, chanting "SI-MO-NA!" On the last point of the second game, Stephens scampered and put up a superb lob that prompted a Halep error. "I have recognised more things I have needed to do".

The pair produced some superb rallies as they showcased why they're two of the best movers in the women's game, but Halep could not break down her nerveless opponent when going on the offensive.

When Halep ended a 14-stroke point by pushing a backhand wide, Stephens owned the first set.

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