Paris: Newly-crowned French Open champion Simona Halep said Sunday she was inspired to win her first Grand Slam title by her manager Virginia Ruzici’s feats 40 years ago at Roland Garros.
Until Saturday, Ruzici’s 1978 Paris triumph over Mima Jausovec was the last time a Romanian, man or woman, had won a Grand Slam but Halep ended that long wait as she hit back to beat American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
In doing so, Halep equalled the feat of American seven-time French Open champion Chris Evert who also suffered three Grand Slam final losses before capturing the 1974 French title.
“It’s a motivation and inspiration,” the 26-year-old Halep, who lifted the junior title 10 years ago, told reporters with Ruzici sitting alongside her. “Forty years ago she won here. It’s a special moment. The fact that it’s happened here, it’s pretty special. So yeah, she’s an inspiration,” the Romanian added.
Being No.1 without a Grand Slam is not like everything, not 100 per cent. It’s my favourite Grand Slam. I always said that if I’m going to win one, I want it to be here
Ruzici, who also lost the 1980 final and was the inspiration for Richard Williams to teach his daughters Venus and Serena to play tennis, said her charge’s win was well-deserved.
“There is of course a lot of emotion,” she told reporters. “She was very close last season. She was favourite for this final but it was not simple. It was a physical and mental fight. Simona gave her heart on the court,” Ruzici added.
Halep said the memory of last year’s defeat by Ostapenko when she led by a set and 3-0 actually helped her Saturday when she trailed by a set and 2-0 to an inspired Stephens.
“When I started to win games, I said that last year it happened to me, the same thing,” she said. “I was a set and a break up and I lost the match. So I said there is a chance to come back and win it.” Her patience finally paid off as she used all her experience to weather the Stephens storm.
- Halep won her first Grand Slam title (French Open 2018) after falling at the final hurdle three times — Roland Garros (2014, 2017) and the Australian Open (2018)
- The Grand Slam title arrived in her 32nd GS appearance. Only seven players have taken more attempts to land one
- Reached No.1 in WTA rankings for the first time in 2017