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No. 1 Halep captures elusive Slam crown

The Associated Press

Simona Halep kisses the trophy at a photo session in Paris on Sunday, the day after winning the French Open women's title.

The Associated Press PARIS (AP) — It was the end of a long and rewarding day, one she’ll likely never forget, and new French Open champion Simona Halep harbored a couple of overriding concerns.

“I’m tired,” she said. “I’m hungry. I didn’t eat since 9 a.m.”

It was getting close to 12 hours since that last meal, and Halep was speaking to two reporters in what she hoped was her last media session Saturday night after beating Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 for her first Grand Slam title. Halep had pined for such a championship to go along with her No. 1 ranking, and she finally had come through after starting her career 0-3 in major finals.

“I think it was the most important thing, because always I said that if you are No. 1 without a Grand Slam, you are not a real No. 1,” Halep said. “Now that I was able to win, it makes it special, and makes it, like, everything together. It’s real now.”

Sure is.

“She showed a lot of maturity. She’s grown up a lot in the last 12 months. Sometimes the losses do make you mature really quickly. You can go one way with your career, and go downwards, or you can suck it up, work a little bit harder and try to do it again,” said Halep’s coach, Darren Cahill. “That’s the way she went.”

It was Cahill who encouraged Halep to embrace the goal, to go ahead and be forthright — with herself and everyone else — about yearning for something she had come close to but had yet to achieve.

“She was able to step up and handle that pressure,” he said.

Now there can be no more questions from others about whether the 26-year-old Romanian deserves to be atop the rankings without a major trophy to go alongside that feat.

“She’s had a tough journey,” said Stephens, a 25-year-old American who won the U.S. Open last September.

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