I will admit, I shed a tear this time. Well, maybe a tear or two. Simona Halep was due this. I understand that nobody in sports is owed anything. No matter how many close calls an athlete has, in the end it is in their hands whether they win or lose. You have to do it the old fashioned way. You have to earn it. That is true, but I still felt Simona Halep was due a Major championship. Three times before she had knocked on the door of ultimate tennis glory, reaching two Roland Garros finals, losing to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapenko last year, and the Australian Open final just this past January, falling to Caroline Wozniacki. Halep has 17 singles victories at the age of only 26 and is the reigning world number one player on the WTA rankings. She even once handed Serena Williams her worst ever loss, 6-2 6-0. When the third set of Saturday’s Roland Garros women’s singles final against Sloane Stephens was over and Simona had finally triumphed, 3-6 6-4 6-1, and held her first Major, it was one of the happiest moments as a fan that I have had in recent years. That is to take nothing away from an incredible tournament and final from Sloane Stephens. I am very fond of Sloane as well and would have been happy if she had won. But the win for Halep was significant in a different way in tennis history and legacy. There’s a line of demarcation between players who have been world number one but never won a singles Major such as Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic. For that matter, also Caroline Wozniacki before she finally broke through at this year’s Australian Open. So perhaps it was fitting that in back-to-back Majors two women who have held the world number one ranking but had not won Majors finally removed that monkey from their back.
What made the victory for Simona even sweeter was that Sloane Stephens really made her work for it. Stephens, who is the reigning US Open champion, for the first set and early into the second set looked impenetrable. While Sloane’s level did dip a little bit, it was Halep raising her play and having strong mental fortitude that proved the difference. Even the final set, with that 6-1 score, was about as competitive a 6-1 set as you will ever see. The score did not tell the story of how tough a battle this was for Simona all the way through. But now, she finally and forever is a Major champion. She no longer has to answer questions about when she thinks she will win one or what does she think it will take to win one. Like Simona, the legendary Chris Evert lost her first three Major finals before breaking through. Chrissy went on to win 18 singles Majors. I am not predicting that Simona will win 18 Majors. In fact, if I have to predict anything I would say she definitely won’t win 18 Majors. But if she can stay healthy, I certainly could see 4 Majors before her career is done, a career similar to Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters.
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SIMONA HALEP, 2018 Roland Garros Champion