Yet she had to face an inspired and hard-hitting Sloane Stephens, who pushed her to the limit in the first set, breaking the Romanian and keeping that advantage to wrap up the first set.
Indeed, when Stephens carried that momentum through to the start of the second set, many thought that this was not going to happen for Halep for the fourth time – with echoes of Kim Clijsters and Andy Murray. Halep admitted, she thought the same at that point.
Halep said: “I felt that, and I said, It’s not going to happen again, but it’s okay. I have just to play. And then when I started to win games, I said that last year 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.”
She continued: ”I played many times against her. I knew that she’s a very tough opponent. I was prepared actually for three hours’ match. I knew that it’s going to be, like, long rallies, long points, and I just wanted to not giving up even if she was leading. So I think that’s the most important thing that I stay there focused, I believed, and I never gave up.”
‘Just run and not miss’
It was reminiscent of the match against Kerber, where Halep was in the moment, but just over-hitting, putting too much on the ball.
She said: “At the beginning I started too strong. I started to hit the ball flat. I had nothing in those balls, and she was just playing very high. The ball was bouncing high. I couldn’t make anything from there.
“And then I said that I have to calm down, just to try to open the court, try to put more balls in. And at one point I felt that she started to feel a little bit tired and to miss more. So, I was patient. I was putting the ball higher and stopped missing.
“So, I think the best thing that I have done these two weeks is that I stopped missing during the match. That’s why I won. Someone told me actually just run and not miss and you’re going to win. So I did today (smiling).”
The locker room celebrates
Her fellow tennis players were quick to congratulate her, including getting messages from two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova, who had also been one of the favourites for the tournament.
Simonaaaaa! You did it. So happy for you. Enjoy every second. You deserve this moment so much 🎉❤️ #RG18
She continued: “First I want to say thank you to Petra Kvitova, she wrote me a message. And also Irina Begu. I read and I replied. So, they are very nice to me.
“Petra sent me few messages after I lost last year here and Melbourne at the final. She said, It’s gonna come. I just have to keep working. It’s nice to see the players are happy about my victory and about this trophy.
“We are like a family here, and it’s nice to see that we are happy for each other. It’s like positive things all over. And the fact that I was able to win maybe will give an inspiration also to Romanians, the kids, that it’s possible, even if you come from a little country, it’s possible if you work and if you believe.”
Halep is scheduled to play Eastbourne (25-30 June) and Wimbledon (2-15 July).
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