Saturday, June 9, 2018

Romanian reverses role, rallies to win Roland Garros

Simona Halep poses with the trophy and Romanian
flag after winning the 2015 BNP Paribas Open at
Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   One year ago, Simona Halep led by a set and an early service break before losing in the French Open final.
   Reversing her role, the 26-year-old Romanian beat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 today at Roland Garros for her first Grand Slam title. Halep had been 0-3 in major finals.
   "When I was down a set and a break, I said everything is gone," the top-ranked Halep said in an on-court interview. "I start to relax and enjoy the match."
   Halep, the champion of the 2015 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, became the first Romanian woman to capture the French Open since Virginia Ruzici 40 years ago. Ruzici, who manages Halep, attended today's final.
   Halep also overcame big, early deficits in the first round against Alison Riske of Nashville, Tenn., in the first round and 12-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in the quarterfinals. Halep lost the first five games against Riske and the first four against Kerber before prevailing in three sets each time.
   In last year's final, Halep led then-20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko by a set and a break with three break points for 4-0 in the second set and also 3-1 in the third set before succumbing 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
   Stephens, a 25-year-old Fresno product seeded 10th, lost in a tour-level final for the first time in seven matches. She won last year's U.S. Open for her first Grand Slam title in only her fifth tournament after having foot surgery.
   Both Halep and Stephens were 0-1 in the Bank of the West Classic, which ended a 21-year run at Stanford last year. Halep lost to Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the first round in 2011, and Stephens fell to Heather Watson of Great Britain in the opening round the following year.
   The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, which replaces the Bank of the West Classic, is scheduled for July 30-Aug. 5 at San Jose State.
   In today's men's doubles final, sixth-seeded Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut of France beat second-seeded Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia 6-2, 7-6 (4).
   Herbert, 27, and Mahut, 36, won their third Grand Slam men's doubles title but first in the French Open. Marach, 37, and Pavic, a 24-year-old left-hander, won the Australian Open in January for their first major crown.
   On Sunday, top-ranked Rafael Nadal will seek his 11th French Open singles title when he faces seventh-seeded Dominic Thiem at 6 a.m. PDT on NBC. It will be the first Grand Slam final for Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian.
   Nadal is 6-3 against Thiem, with all of the matches coming on outdoor clay. Thiem won the last encounter 7-5, 6-3 in the Madrid quarterfinals last month, but in the previous two matches, Nadal romped 6-0, 6-2 in the Monte Carlo quarters in April and 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in last year's French Open semifinals.
   Nadal, who turned 32 last Sunday, has not lost a set to Thiem in two Grand Slam matches. In their first career meeting, Nadal won 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in the second round of the 2014 French Open.
   Thiem will try to become only the second man outside of the "Big Five" (Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovie, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka) to win a major title since 2009. Marin Cilic took the 2014 U.S. Open crown.

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