Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps Simona Halep’s victory at Roland Garros.

Simona Halep can finally move on, and maybe so should we?

Over the weekend, the world No. 1 had the chance of a lifetime—another one, you might say—and took full advantage, beating Sloane Stephens in the Roland Garros final by the score of 3-6, 6-4 and 6-1 and in the process capturing the first Grand Slam title of her career.

Such a momentous win will undoubtedly validate the Romania in the eyes of some, as she finally has a title worthy of the lofty heights she has reached over the previous four years. Never mind that so many have won a Grand Slam in history, but that only a handful have reigned atop the WTA rankings; in the eyes of many, Halep simply couldn’t have ever been much if she couldn’t manage to win a big one.

But now she has her title, the one that validates the rest of her illustrious career, and she’ll live on forever.

This French Open final against Stephens can act as pretty much as a microcosm of her career. “I said, ‘[A win is] not going to happen again, but it’s okay.’ I have just to play,” Halep told reporters after the final. “And then when I started to win games, I said that last year happened to me – same thing, I was set and a break up and I lost the match.”

She was?

If we look back at the 2017 French Open, we see a match-up where Halep was prime to break through against an opponent who was likely overwhelmed by the moment in Jelena Ostapenko. For half of the match, that’s exactly what happened, with Halep jumping to a set-and-break lead before unraveling and eventually losing the final altogether.

Fast forward to this year, and things were different. The best player in the world had lost her three career Grand Slam finals, and six of her previous seven overall finals. To top it off, she was playing an opponent that had an immaculate 6-0 career record in finals and who had won 12 of 13 career sets there. Not only that, but it looked like the 2017 final might have left marks in Halep’s psyche

Against Stephens, the 26-year-old was the one down a set and a break but this time Halep stepped up and elevated her game when she needed it. In the process, she realized a teenage dream. “When I was 14, I decided to be a professional tennis player, I mean, to dedicate myself to this sport,” Halep said. “Since then, I was dreaming for these moments. I was dreaming to win a Grand Slam.”

Looking back, Roland Garros was probably always going to be Halep’s first breakthrough as the clay court probably suits her game the best. Paris is the place she won a juniors title in 2008, as well as the aforementioned very public meltdown from 2017. But Halep’s connections to Court Philippe-Chatrier go beyond the on-court results: the Romanian has idolized Justine Henin, who won four of her seven career Grand Slams at Roland Garros.

And today, 40 years after Virginia Ruzici became the first Romanian to win the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, Halep walked in her footsteps and became the second. “[The trophy], it’s heavy, it’s beautiful – and always when I was seeing the pictures with it, I dreamed to have it, to touch it. Now it’s a special moment and I’m really happy that it’s ‘mine.’”

The trophy is hers and so is the title of Grand Slam winner. No one will ever take that away from her.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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