To manage it, Halep had to come back from a set and a service break down, just as Jelena Ostapenko, her opponent in last year’s French Open final, had done against her. In the early stages of the match, Halep could find no holes in Stephens’s game as the American glided along the baseline, absorbing pace and striking when she sensed an opportunity of her own. It was as if Halep were not only playing on crushed red brick but also against a red brick wall.
But from 0-2 down in the second set, Halep was able to change the flow of the match. She reeled off nine straight points at one stage, breaking Stephens’s serve for the first time in the match and at love. Serving at 4-4, 30-30, Halep was still on the edge, however. But she played two bold, aggressive points, taking chances with her forehand inside the court.
After breaking Stephens to even the match at one set apiece, she jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the final set. In all, Halep won 12 of the final 15 games, serving out the match at 5-1 and then dropping her racket as she faced her team in the players’ box with both her arms held high.
“In the last game, I felt I could not breathe anymore, so I just tried to not repeat the last few years,” she said. “I did everything I could. Honestly, I could not believe. I was dreaming for this moment since I started to play tennis.”