PARIS – The wait is over—Simona Halep is finally a Grand Slam champion.
The world No. 1 had to dig deep to win this French Open final, as Sloane Stephens’ defense presented problems early on, but in the end she absolutely earned a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.
Here are three thoughts from the match.
A proper way to win Slam number one
Halep would have been ecstatic no matter the manner of victory today, but she has to be doubly pleased with the way she seized her first Slam title. It was a final in which both players played at or near their best; Stephens came out hot, never one to be overwhelmed by any moment or storyline. Credit Halep for changing her tactics a bit. She utilized her superior fitness and started grinding Stephens down with consistency, a strategy that paid dividends, and Stephens didn’t adjust accordingly.
Halep wasn’t handed anything throughout the journey, and today was a fitting end. She had to go out and win it with A-level tennis, and she did exactly that.
Sloane Stephens is here to stay
I spoke to Stephens yesterday, and she told me that her recent run of success since her return from surgery—winning the U.S. Open, winning the Miami Masters, reaching the final here in Paris—has prompted her to re-assess her career and goals. She’s going to leave her as the No. 4 player in the world and she has no points to defend at Wimbledon. Don’t be surprised if she’s a top-two player by the U.S. Open.
She’s going to be disappointed to lose this final, for sure, but in the big picture, definitely a positive week for the 25-year-old American. She’s fully deserving of her new status as a top-five player in the world.
Can Halep emerge from the pack as the class of the tour?
Wimbledon begins in about three weeks’ time, and Halep can certainly translate her offense-defense combination to grass. She’s already reached the final of the Australian Open and won here, and it feels like she’s ready to distance herself a bit from the field and become the undisputed world’s just player. Not just by ranking, but by reputation. Serena’s injury is the big question mark heading into Wimbledon—we hear that she willl, indeed, be able to play—but Halep has an opportunity to build on what has already been a special yeaer.