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French Open (video): Popular Halep shows she has the right stuff when it matters most

TOP OF THE WORLD: Simona Halep with the trophy after her French Open women's singles final victory against Sloane Stephens. Picture: Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images)
TOP OF THE WORLD: Simona Halep with the trophy after her French Open women's singles final victory against Sloane Stephens. Picture: Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images)
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Simona Halep will head to Wimbledon having finally put to bed doubts about her big-game temperament.

The 26-year-old Romanian ended her grand slam drought by beating Sloane Stephens in the French Open final.

Halep had something of a reputation for caving in under pressure at key moments, never more so than in last year’s Paris final when, from a set and a break up, she lost to unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.

This year the roles were reversed; Halep found herself a set and a break down against American Stephens, but came back to win an enthralling match 3-6 6-4 6-1.

She had finally got the monkey off her back, no longer the world’s No 1 player without a grand slam to her name.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” she said. “I’m really happy that I won this grand slam because being No 1 without a grand slam, I always said, is not like everything, not 100 per cent.

Simona Halep hits a backhand on her way to a French Open title victory against Sloane Stephens. Picture: Mustafa Yalcin/Getty Images

Simona Halep hits a backhand on her way to a French Open title victory against Sloane Stephens. Picture: Mustafa Yalcin/Getty Images

“Last year I was a little bit defensive when I was leading the match, and now I just change it in my mind.

“I said that I have to hit the balls. I have to move and not think about the last game. Just every ball, every point.

“I said ‘it’s not going to happen again’, and then when I started to win games I knew there was a chance to come back and win it.

“So I believed in that, and my game was more relaxed. I could make more things on court, and that’s why I could win.”

I’m really happy that I won this grand slam because being No 1 without a grand slam, I always said, is not like everything, not 100 per cent.

Simona Halep

Halep’s victory was met with a flood of congratulations from her peers on social media, a measure of her popularity within the game. The likes of Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova and Britian’s Johanna Konta all toasted her landmark win.

“It’s nice to see the players are happy about my victory and about this trophy,” added Halep.

“We are like a family here, and it’s nice to see that we are happy for each other.

“It’s like positive things all over. And the fact that I was able to win maybe will give an inspiration also to Romanians, the kids, that it’s possible, even if you come from a little country, if you work and if you believe.”