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Sharapova beats Halep in memorable French Open final

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Originally published on 07/06/14

The Russian edged a memorable contest 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4 in three hours and two minutes to clinch her fifth Grand Slam title. She is now joint-11th on the all-time list alongside Martina Hingis and is set to rise to No.5 in the world.

“This is the toughest Grand Slam final I have ever played and all respect to Simona, she played an unbelievable match today," said Sharapova, who served 12 double faults. “You’ve had an unbelievable two weeks, Simona. Congratulations. I’m so emotional right now I don’t know what language to speak, English, French, Russian. But to be able to have the chance to stand on this stage two years is incredible for me. This one will be special for me all my life.”

While Sharapova was appearing in her third French Open final in a row, Halep was in her first major final. But she pushed the 2012 champion to the limit in an enthralling contest and even had the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd chanting her name.

"This is my first Grand Slam final speech, but I wish to have many more," said the Romanian. "First I'd like to say congratulations Maria. You're a great champion and you played really well, and you really deserved this title. I wish you all of the best for the future. I've had two incredible weeks here. It was an amazing tournament for me. I played my best and I'm happy you guys all came every match to support me. I want to thank all of you – and also to the people back home in Romania, I just want to say thank you to all of you as well for all of your support."

Halep made a bright start by breaking in the opening game of the match but Sharapova, as she has done all tournament, fought back to seize the initiative. She reeled off five games in a row to move 5-2 ahead and eventually closed out a high-quality set in 57 minutes. That was the first set that Halep had dropped at the tournament but she rallied well from 2-0 down in the second to edge ahead. A fortuitous net cord allowed Sharapova to level at 5-5 but Halep put it behind her to take the tie-break and force a deciding set in the women’s final for the first time since 2001.

The Russian looked to have seized control after breaking in the fifth game, only to then double fault and hand Halep the break back at 4-4. The next game seemed pivotal and it was Sharapova who won it to put herself on the brink of victory. She then kept her composure to serve out the match and sank to her knees as Halep went wide with a backhand.

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