Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Sharapova silences Halep in Paris

Her 12 double faults were a nuisance and the non-stop shrieks that punctured
the air for more than three hours even made a baby wail, yet all Maria Sharapova will want to remember from the French Open is the moment she sunk to her knees in triumph.

The Russian had scrapped in eight major finals, winning four of them, but never before had she been taken to three sets in a showpiece match until she ran into a tireless Romanian named Simona Halep on Saturday.

Showing nerves of steel that would have made seasoned champions proud, grand-slam final debutante Halep fought, believed and risked everything for three hours and two minutes before a backhand into the tramlines allowed Sharapova to hug the Suzanne Lenglen Cup for a second time in three years.

A woman who had played three successive three-set matches to reach the final was left in no doubt about where her 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4 win over Halep stood among her major wins.

“This is the toughest grand slam final I have ever played and all respect to Simona as she played an unbelievable match today,” an emotional Sharapova told the crowd during a victory speech in three different languages.

“I can’t believe it, seven or eight years ago I would not have thought that I would win more Roland Garros titles than any other grand slam.

“To think I won it twice … I’m so emotional right now, I don’t know what language to speak … English, Russian or French.”

While Sharapova clambered up the stands to hug her three-man entourage, which included coach Sven Groeneveld, a distraught Halep sat on her courtside bench with a towel over her head wondering what might have been.

“Yes. I was crying at that moment for a few minutes, and then I was smiling because … it was my first grand slam final and I did everything on court,” said Halep, who was bidding to become the first Romanian in 36 years to win a grand slam crown.

“I played very good tennis, very good level. So I’m really proud about these two weeks. They were incredible weeks here … and it was an amazing feeling on court today,” added Halep after picking up the €825 000 runners-up cheque that will go some way towards soothing her pain.

Sharapova’s purse was double that but for a woman whose worth is said to be close to $100-million, the prize money was largely insignificant. What she really wanted to take away from Roland Garros was the trophy.

‘Might have to steal it’

“I wish I could keep the big [trophy] … I might have to steal it. There is a reason why I haven’t been to one shop while I have been in Paris. It’s because I want this. I haven’t eaten many macaroons, either. It’s because I want this,” Sharapova said after recording her 50th win at Roland Garros.

Parisians had not been treated to a three-set women’s final at the claycourt major for 13 years but Sharapova and Halep made up for lost time in a match that seemed to have never-ending twists and turns.

A battle that started with the sun beating down on Philippe Chatrier Court – featuring 227 points, 83 unforced errors, 66 winners, 33 break points, 16 breaks and 12 Sharapova double faults – turned into a contest that was the longest women’s final in Paris since 1996.

The double faults became a recurring nightmare for Sharapova as she kept gifting her fourth-seeded rival break points.

It cost her the opening game before she levelled for 2-2.

Serving for the set at 5-3, another double fault left Sharapova cursing her luck as she got broken.

With one tendon-twisting rally being followed by another sinew-stretching point, Sharapova’s shrieks started to hit new heights and left one baby high up in the stands crying her lungs out just as the Russian earned her second set point on Halep’s serve.

No stranger to making a noisy racket herself, the seventh seed blocked out the commotion to snatch the set as a distracted Halep whipped the ball wide on set point.

Their bare shoulders were glistening with sweat and Sharapova’s pale rose-coloured dress even changed into a darker shade of pink but there was no let up on the intensity in the second set.

Halep broke for a 5-4 lead in a game that brought the cheering crowd to their feet following a 21-shot rally but that advantage disappeared within minutes as Sharapova broke back for 5-5 thanks to a rasping service return that bobbed on the tape and dropped dead over the net.

The set headed into a tiebreak following two more breaks and Halep rewarded her vocal cheering squad’s chants of “Si-mon-a, Si-mon-a, Si-mon-a” by bagging the tiebreak 7-5 when her seventh-seeded opponent slashed a backhand wide.

The drama did not stop there.

Serving at 4-4 in the third set, Halep was left dismayed and distracted after a Sharapova shot was called “out” rather late by a linesman, only to be overruled by the umpire.

That set off a chain of events that resulted in Halep losing eight straight points, the match, and the trophy.

But a year after walking away from Roland Garros as a first-round loser and ranked 57th in the world, Halep will stride out of Paris as the world’s third best player and with the knowledge that she has left an indelible mark on the soft red clay. – Reuters

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Eastern Cape premier Mabuyane lives large amid province’s poverty

Oscar Mabuyane and MEC Babalo Madikizela allegedly used a portion of state funds for struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s commemoration for their own benefit

Constitutional court confirms warrantless searches in cordoned off areas unconstitutional

The law was challenged in response to raids in inner Johannesburg seemingly targeting illegal immigrants and the highest court has pronounced itself 10 days before an election in which then mayor Herman Mashaba has campaigned on an anti-foreigner ticket

A blunt Mantashe makes no promises during election campaigning

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe told people in Daveyton to stop expecting handouts from the government

Mbeki: Social compact the answer to promises made in ANC...

Former president Thabo Mbeki urged business and government and society to work together to tackle issues such as poverty, unemployment and poor services and infrastructure

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…