(June 7, 2014) Once describing her movement on clay courts as that of a “cow on ice,” Maria Sharapova has now captured the most important clay court title for a second time in three years by defeating No. 4 seed Simona Halep 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 for the French Open title on Saturday. The victory marks her fifth major tournament victory – 2012, 2014 French Opens, 2008 Australian Open, 2006 US. Open and 2004 Wimbledon.
The win is 27-year-old’s 32nd tournament win. She will move up to No. 5 in the world when the next rankings come out on Monday and Halep who made her first major final appearance will rise to No. 3.
Coming into last year’s French Open Halep was ranked No. 57 in the world.
Sharapova went down a break in the first set but rebounded to win it. In the second set Sharapova broke Halep twice as she was serving for the set, but lost the last four points of the tiebreak, after leading 5-3 to lose it and be extended to a third set. In the third set both women exchanged breaks early, but the Russian gained the ultimate break of serve in the ninth game of the set, which she backed up with an emphatic hold.
Sharapova had to rally from a set down in three straight matches on the way to the final, beating Sam Stosur, Garbine Murguruza and Eugenie Bouchard.
“This is the toughest Grand Slam final I’ve ever played,” Sharapova said on court after the match. “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.”
“To be in your first Grand Slam final is an incredible achievement,” Sharapova said. “You’ve had an amazing two weeks, and this is just the first step. I think you’ll have an incredible career.”
“It’s my first Grand Slam speech, so emotionally it’s really difficult for me,” Halep said to the crowd during the trophy ceremony, after the match. “But I wish to have many more. But of course this one will be very special for me all my life.”
“I had two incredible weeks here. It was an amazing tournament for me,” Halep continued. “I played my best. And I’m really happy that you guys came every match to support me and today also you were amazing.”
Halep was trying to become the second Romanian player to win Roland Garros. The first, Viriginia Ruzici who won in 1978, is Halep’s manager.
Sharapova is now the first Russian player to win a major twice.
The match which lasted 3 hours and 2 minutes was the longest French Open women’s final since 1996 when Steffi Graf defeated Arantxa Sanchez 10-8 in the third set. It was also the first women’s final in Paris to go the full three sets since Jennifer Capriati beat Kim Clijsters 12-10 in the third in 2001.
“If somebody had told me that I’d win at some stage in my career that I’d have more Roland Garros titles than any other Grand Slam, I’d probably go get drunk” Sharapova said. Or tell them to get drunk, one or the other.
“Yeah, it’s really amazing. I feel that I worked to get to this position. There’s nothing else. There is no substitute in these titles. You can’t just go out there and just do it without putting in the effort, putting in the work.
“You’re not just born being a natural clay court player. Okay, maybe if you’re Nadal. But certainly not me. I didn’t grow up on it; didn’t play on it. I just took it upon myself to make myself better on it.
“There is no one else that was going to do that for me. I had to do the work.”
“I think I had good tactics today,” Halep said in her post-match news conference. “I opened the angles. Also, I was hitting the ball strong.
“But, yeah, she did what she’s doing always, like to hit the balls very strong. The serve was really, she had a good kick, and it was difficult for me to return.
“Yeah, she was moving really well. I think it was a good, very good match today, a good final. I didn’t expect three sets, three hours, but it happened, and I’m really happy that I could stay very long time on court.
“The atmosphere was incredible. Of course, forever I will not forget this match.”
Sharapova’s win marks her 32nd career title. She now is second place on the all-time prize money list surpassing Venus Williams. Serena Williams sits atop the all-time earnings list.
Sharapova now has 10 clay court titles, second among active players to Serena Williams with 11. Her record improves to 19-1 on clay this season and 54-4 since the start of 2012. She now has 20 straight wins in three-set matches on clay.