x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Maria Sharapova thrilled to win ‘toughest grand slam’

Halep, who had not lost a set entering the final, put up a great fight but bowed out after three hours and two minutes – the longest women’s final in Paris since 1996.

Russia's Maria Sharapova returns the ball during the final of the French Open against Romania's Simona Halep. David Vincent / AP Photo / June 7, 2014
Russia's Maria Sharapova returns the ball during the final of the French Open against Romania's Simona Halep. David Vincent / AP Photo / June 7, 2014

PARIS // Even though her serve failed her repeatedly, Maria Sharapova is again a French Open champion.

Sharapova won her second title at Roland Garros in the past three years, overcoming 12 double-faults yesterday to beat fourth-seeded Simona Halep 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 in the final.

“This is the toughest grand slam final I’ve ever played,” Sharapova said on court. “Really, this tournament means so much to me. It’s a tournament, when I was young and growing up, I wanted to win.

“To think that I’ve won it two times is, I don’t know. So emotional right now, I can’t even talk.”

Sharapova has struggled with her serve this week and was broken seven times in the final on Court Philippe Chatrier.

But she was able to hold off Halep, and serve in the final game, with steady groundstrokes that kept the Romanian on the run.

After Sharapova’s final forehand forced an error from Halep’s backhand, the Russian dropped to her knees and buried her face in her hands. She then looked to her team in the stands before shaking hands with Halep at the net. Once the formalities were done, she climbed into the stands for some hugs and kisses.

Sharapova also won the title at Roland Garros in 2012, completing a career Grand Slam. She lost in last year’s final to Serena Williams. Halep, who was ranked only 57th heading into last year’s French Open, was playing in her first major final.

“It’s my first grand slam speech, so emotionally it’s really difficult for me,” Halep said, addressing the crowd after the match. “But I wish to have many more. But of course this one will be very special for me all my life.”

Neither Sharapova nor Halep was able to hold serve consistently, with 16 combined breaks of serve in the match.

In the 10 games of the final set, there were five breaks and, at one point, the pair went on a run of six straight breaks of serve, starting with the final four games of the second set and ending after the first two of the third.

Sharapova often looked to be in control, even in the tiebreaker. She led 5-3, two points from victory, but then lost the next four points to even the score at one set apiece.

The match lasted three hours, two minutes – the longest French Open women’s final since 1996, when Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez 10-8 in the third. It was also the first women’s final in Paris to go three sets since Jennifer Capriati beat Kim Clijsters 12-10 in the third in 2001.

Sharapova lost the first set in each of three previous matches at Roland Garros.

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