Simona Halep credits mental strength to win first Grand Slam at French Open
Last Updated: 10/06/18 12:01pm
Simona Halep says she took heart from the manner of previous Grand Slam final defeats to mount a memorable comeback and land an elusive major title at the French Open.
Halep had lost all three of her previous showpiece encounters but delivered a spectacular performance at Roland Garros to defeat Sloane Stephens 3-6 6-4 6-1.
The world No 1, who let slip a commanding advantage in last year's final against Jelena Ostapenko, trailed by a set and 2-0 but quickly banished fears of further final heartache to capture a landmark triumph in her 33rd major appearance.
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"I felt that and I said, 'it's not going to happen again, but it is okay. I have just to play', and then I just started to win games," Halep said.
"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."
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Seventh consecutive different women's Grand Slam champion
|Simona Halep||French Open||June 2018|
|Caroline Wozniacki||Australian Open||January 2018|
|Sloane Stephens||US Open||September 2017|
|Garbine Muguruza||Wimbledon||July 2017|
|Jelena Ostapenko||French Open||June 2017|
|Serena Williams||Australian Open||January 2017|
|Angelique Kerber||US Open||September 2016|
After Halep won a tight second set with a decisive break of serve to force a decider, the Romanian maintained her ascendency in the contest to build a 5-0 lead, having earlier secured her double break advantage at the end of a breathtaking exchange.
The 26-year-old conceded the weight of pressure on her shoulders to break her Grand Slam duck caught up with her as she neared the winning line but praised her resolve.
"I couldn't breathe very well in the last game at 5-0. And when I lost the game, I said, 'okay, I have four more until she gets back'," Halep said.
"Last year I was a little bit defensive when I was leading the match, and now I just had a change in my mind.
"I said that I have to hit the balls. I have to move and not be thinking about the last game. Just every ball, every point.
"So I did it well, and I was very strong mentally to finish that."
I'm really happy that I won this Grand Slam. Because being number one without a Grand Slam, I always said, is not like everything, not 100 percent.
Halep reached the summit of the women's game in October and despite her most recent Grand Slam final defeat, never lost sight of her goal.
"I'm really happy that I won this Grand Slam. Because being number one without a Grand Slam, I always said, is not like everything, not 100 percent," Halep said.
"For me it was really positive. And the fact that I could be number one in the world last year gave me confidence and gave me a little bit of relief, because I touched something big, something huge, and I just had in my mind to win a Grand Slam after that."
Halep climbed up into the stands to celebrate with her support camp including a warm embrace with experienced coach Darren Cahill, who has been an integral factor in Halep's consistency at the top echelons of the sport.
"She has been kicked in the stomach a couple of times when she's had chances," said Cahill.
"They say the destination is more beautiful if there's a bit of a bumpy road and you eventually get there. And that's what happened to her today."
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