PARIS, France - When she broke through at Wimbledon in 2004 and seemingly struggled on the slower surfaces, many thought the French Open would be the last one she'd win. But how many thought it would be the first one she'd win twice? Maria Sharapova beat Simona Halep on Saturday to not only win her fifth Grand Slam title, but also make the clay court major the first one she has two of.
It almost didn't happen - a few times, actually. Sharapova had to rally from a set down three matches in a row before the final, something she had never done at any tournament in her career. She was two games from losing to Sam Stosur, a game from losing to Garbiñe Muguruza and again two games from losing to Eugenie Bouchard. Needless to say, she really had to work to even make it into the final.
And she may not have had to rally from a set down this time, but the grind certainly didn't end there. For three hours and two minutes Sharapova and Halep battled it out on Court Philippe Chatrier, with Sharapova building the early lead - 6-4, 2-0 - but Halep working her way right back into it, sneaking out the second set and holding two break points for a 3-1 lead in the third set, even getting to 4-all.
But the No.7-seeded Sharapova brought out her best tennis of the tournament when it mattered most, dropping a pair of love games on the No.4-seeded Halep to capture the title, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4.
"This was the toughest Grand Slam final I've ever played," Sharapova said in her on-court interview afterwards. "All the respect to Simona. I thought she just played an unbelievable match today.
"I can't believe it. I never thought seven or eight years ago that I'd win more Roland Garroses when I was 27 years old than any other Grand Slam. It's a dream come true. This tournament means so much to me. And to think I've won it two times now - I'm so emotional, I can't even talk right now!"
The two players then took the stage for more post-match comments during the trophy presentation.
"This is my first Grand Slam final speech, but I wish to have many more," Halep said to cheers from the enthusiastic Chatrier crowd. "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."
After Halep thanked her team, family and friends, Sharapova continued to praise her fellow finalist.
"To be in your first Grand Slam final is an incredible achievement," the Russian said. "You've had an amazing two weeks, and this is just the first step. I think you'll have an incredible career."
Sharapova now has five Grand Slam titles - Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008, the French Open in 2012 and the French Open - again - in 2014. She is the 12th woman in the Open Era to win five or more Grand Slam titles, after Steffi Graf (22), Chris Evert (18), Martina Navratilova (18), Serena Williams (17), Margaret Court (11), Monica Seles (9), Billie Jean King (8), Evonne Goolagong Cawley (7), Venus Williams (7), Justine Henin (7) and Martina Hingis (5).
Sharapova will go from No.8 to No.5 on the WTA Rankings, No.4 to No.1 on the Road To Singapore leaderboard, and No.3 to No.2 on the all-time prize money list (trailing only Serena Williams).
Halep will now be No.3 across the board - on the WTA Rankings and Road To Singapore leaderboard.