Maria Sharapova survived another three-set match to clinch her fifth Grand Slam title in the French Open final on Saturday.
The Russian held her nerves in the deciding set of a dicey final against fourth seed Simona Halep to a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 win, claiming her second Roland Garros title at the Philippe Chatrier in 3 hours 2 minutes, two years after winning her first.
Halep, playing in her first Majors final, enjoyed her fair share of momentum in a ding-dong contest best remembered for some shaky service, going on to inspire the first three-set final since Jennifer Capriati and Kim Clijster back in 2001.
Sharapova’s iron will conquered all- including Sam Stossur, Garbine Muguruza and Eugenie Bouchard- in the end, extending her record in deciding sets on clay to 20-0.
At 4-3 in the second set the 27-year-old seventh seed held two break points, but her Romanian opponent saved both. In the tie-breaker, Sharapova got within two points of victory at 5-3, but Halep took the next four to claim the set and force the game into a decider.
“This is the toughest Grand Slam final I’ve ever played,” Sharapova, who has won the Wimbledon (2004), US Open (2006), and the Australian Open (2008) one each, said.
“I never thought seven, eight years ago, that I would win more Roland Garroses when I was 27 years old than any other Grand Slam.
“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 took an eight-minute toilet break after losing the second set tie-break. She went ahead 4-2 on return but her 22-year-old opponent broke back to 4-all.
It turned out that was Halep’s last shot at a first Grand Slam title as Sharapova upped the ante and wouldn’t lose another point. She broke to love for 5-4 with a backhand winner, then holding at love by forcing a backhand error from Halep on match point.