| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
Simona Halep won the first Grand Slam of her career with a thrilling comeback victory over American Sloane Stephens.
Photo Credit: USTA

 

It was a special weekend at Roland Garros in Paris, France as the 2018 French Open came to a close. Both the top seeds in the men’s singles and women’s singles draws, Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep, respectively, came out on top, but the two title winners arrived at the top of the winner’s podium in different fashions.

For Nadal, the King of Clay captured his 11th French Open championship with a clinical 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Austria’s Dominic Thiem.

“What really matters for me is to have this trophy again with me. That means a lot. As everybody knows, for me is the most important tournament of the year,” said Nadal. “But I always say the same. Tennis is not only about Grand Slams. There’s much more tournaments, a lot of important tournaments that, for me, means a lot. But of course Roland Garros is always on the calendar and a special date. So winning here after having the clay court season that I had is, yeah, emotional and that gives me calm and confidence to keep going.”

Nadal did more than just win over the last fortnight: he dominated. The Spaniard lost only one set throughout the entire tournament (the opening set against Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals), and finished his clay-court season with a remarkable 24-1 record.

The only loss came against in Thiem in the Madrid quarterfinals, but Nadal exacted revenge for that one defeat on Sunday.

He broke Thiem late in the first set, and then broke twice in the second set to pull away.

The day before, Halep faced off against last year’s U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, as the Romanian was seeking her first career Grand Slam title. It was her fourth appearance in a Grand Slam final, and the fourth time proved to be the charm as she fought back from a set and a break down to beat Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to claim her maiden major trophy.

“It’s a special moment. I was dreaming for this moment since I started to play tennis,” said Halep. “It’s my favorite Grand Slam. I always said that if I’m going to win one, I want to be here.

It’s real now…”

From 0-2 down in the second set, Halep flipped the match on its head. She snagged the break back for 2-2, and after taking the second set, built a 5-0 advantage in the deciding third set.

Halep said she used her devastating loss to Jelena Ostapenko in last year’s French Open final as a learning experience, and carried that into Saturday’s match.

“Last year I was a little bit defensive when I was leading the match, and now I just changed it in my mind,” said Halep. “I said that I have to hit the balls. I have to move and not think about the last game. Just every ball, every point.

I said, ‘It’s not going to happen again, but it’s okay’. I have to just play. And then when I started to win games, I said that last year happened to me, same thing. I was a set and a break up and I lost the match. So I said there is a chance to come back and win it. I believed in that, and my game was more relaxed. I could make more things on court, and that’s why I could win.”

Nadal and Halep wrapped up an exciting two weeks on the clay in Paris, and the ATP and WTA seasons now shift from the clay courts to the grass courts.