For a fraction of a moment it looked as though Sloane Stephens was about to replicate her incredible run at the US Open, having returned from injury just 69 days previously, by becoming a two-time Slam champion.
From the start of the match, Stephens had Simona Halep on the back-foot, making her work so hard for every point. The quality of the tennis from the pair was outstanding – everything that a final should be. And every good final has a twist.
At a set and a break down, Halep lifted her game, and suddenly the tide began to turn as the Romanian went through a purple patch, winning three games on the bounce to go ahead, before being pegged back on serve.
Halep reeled off the six games to take the second set and build up a 5-0 lead, before Stephens got herself on the board, before Halep served her way to a maiden title. It was no less than the quality of this match deserved. Would that the men on Sunday will be so entertaining.
Obviously disappointed, Stephens said, after the match: “She raised her game, raised her level. Not much you can really do about that. I competed the best I could, and the better player won the match today.
“Obviously being in a Grand Slam final is very special. It’s a great opportunity. Not very many players ever get to a Grand Slam final. So the fact that I have won one and been in another final in such a short period of time, I’m very optimistic and very pleased with myself. I’m not satisfied, but I am proud of myself.”
She smilingly got a little dig to our American colleagues who perhaps have focussed a lot on the fact that Stephens title successes have been lacking when she gets to these European shores. Perhaps a little harsh as she has actually strung quite a few wins together from time to time, but ours is not to reason why – ours is just to check Tennis Abstract instead!
“Can I just state for the record that all of you guys in here were Tweeting that I had a losing record anywhere except for the United States. So I think I have done very well to make the finals of the French Open. So if any of you want to Tweet that, I would be very happy, give you guys a like, a re-Tweet or something.
“Because you seem to only want to say, She’s 0 and 8 in the other countries, and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, it’s you and you and a lot of you (pointing to different members of the media). So I just wanted to, for the record, I’m now — I don’t know what I am now, but it’s better than I was. (smiling).”
‘You better put it up in the air and show them what you got today’
Halep’s sprint for the finish put Stephens in an unfamiliar position, having been 6-0 on finals, but there was still time for her to teach Halep how to lift up a trophy
Stephens said:” Yeah. Show the world your trophy. You have been waiting for this. So you better put it up in the air and show them what you got today. And she had a prize money check too, but they don’t do that here. She benefited a lot today, so she should definitely show everybody that she is definitely winning.”
Stephens may play Eastbourne (25-30 June), before Wimbledon, which takes place 2-15 July.
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