Better write-ups exist pretty much anywhere else, but here is my two cents on finals weekend at RG 2018.
Fourth time lucky for loveable Halep as Sloane sees success slip away
Saturday’s contest was another Parisian classic and for the third time in four years it was the diminutive Halep who starred. I’ll make no excuses, there is something about the world number one that I find very endearing; off court she seems very down to earth and unassuming, supported by her popularity in the locker room and with fans worldwide.
Her small stature and subsequent lack of power compared to some means she relies on speed, tactics and sheer will, – yes she (now) make a proper din with every groundstroke, but this is just the way of today’s game unfortunately.
Her opponent Sloane Stephens is still something of an enigma to me; the quiet American possesses a very understated yet truly complete game and the 2017 US Open champion’s athleticism and court coverage matches Halep’s and more.
What we had then was a great match up of attack and defence, with both players able to offer both in abundance. But it was the unfancied Stephens who quickly, effortlessly ghosted her way to a set and a break – it all looked ominous for Simona, who had no answer and no clue to break down the brick wall built by the 10th seed.
But then, Halep showed true resolve and played her trademark stuff, and simultaneously Stephens – perhaps shell-shocked by how easy it had been until then and how quickly her opponent’s resurgence came around. Soon there was only one winner – and Halep closed things out 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Cue emotional scenes for just about everybody, including the always dependable Eurosport commentary team.
Rafa resplendent once again as Thiem’s time yet to come
If Saturday’s final was full of drama and emotion, today’s offering would at least serve up some more history and a challenge to think up more superlatives to describe the greatest clay-court player the sport has and will ever see.
Thiem started brightly and had Nadal rattled for sure, going toe-to-toe in the early exchanges including a bullish break-back. But the pressure of the Austrian’s first major final seemed to culminate at exactly the wrong time. At 4-5 down the consistent Thiem suddenly sprayed four unforced errors and the set was lost. That gift signalled the end of Thiem’s slim self-belief and the tightening of the screw by his imperious opponent.
The air of inevitability quickly encircled Court Philippe Chatrier and Rafa soon wrapped things up with little fuss; 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Thiem is far too good not to be a sure-fire champion here in future, but now – still – this is Rafa’s time, let us revel in it. We are experiencing one man’s legacy that will never be equalled let alone bettered and will stand the test of time forever.