Welcome to French Open Flashbacks, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable narratives from Roland Garros over the past 20 years. After recapping Charleston's classics, Stuttgart's standards, Madrid’s magic moments, and Rome's records, our retrospective heads to the culmination of the clay season in Paris - up next is Simona Halep's run to her maiden Grand Slam final at the 2014 French Open.
THE MOMENT: In 2013, Simona Halep exploded onto the scene by winning six WTA titles en route to being named WTA Most Improved Player of the Year — but a run to the final of the 2014 French Open helped cement the Romanian's status as one of this decade's elite players.
Reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Melbourne and winning her first Premier 5 title in Doha to start that season, Halep arrived in Paris also having shown off her clay-court prowess and earned her place as the highest-ranked Romanian in WTA history.
With five of her first 10 WTA final appearances coming at clay-court tournaments, the Romanian notched another milestone on the terre battue by reaching the biggest showpiece match of her career at the Premier Mandatory Mutua Madrid Open.
Along the way, she defeated former Grand Slam champions Ana Ivanovic and Petra Kvitova, before finishing runner-up to Maria Sharapova in a thrilling three-setter that foreshadowed a similar classic in Paris.
Entering the French Open as the No.4 seed, Halep became the first woman to reach her maiden Grand Slam final without dropping a set since Martina Hingis at the 1997 Australian Open by virtue of victories over Sloane Stephens, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Andrea Petkovic, among others.
In the championship, Halep battled Sharapova for over three hours on Court Philippe Chatrier, with the challenger overcoming several deficits in what became the first women's final at Roland Garros in 13 years to go three sets.
Facing two break points in the eighth game of the second set, Halep held firm, and she later won four straight points from a 5-3 deficit in the ensuing tiebreak to take the match the to a final set.
Later in the decider, the No.4 seed again showed her mettle as she evened proceedings at 4-4 from a 4-2 hole, before Sharapova ultimately won the last eight points of the match to win, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 in three hours and two minutes.
THE MEANING: Despite the defeat, Halep proved that she was ready to be a force to be reckoned with at just 22 years old — with even Sharapova calling the match "the toughest Grand Slam final I've ever played."
With wins under her belt, but having been an unproven commodity at Grand Slams until that point, the Romanian also affirmed that her runner-up finish inspired her own belief to perform on the game's biggest stages.
"[I learned] that I can play at very high level. I can play the finals without big emotions. I had incredible, two incredible weeks here," Halep said.
"I saw that I can play good at the Grand Slam, because before I had pressure. Before the tournament, in Grand Slams, I cannot play my best tennis. But here I did, and I'm really proud of this."
From then on, Halep firmly entrenched herself amongst the game's best. In the next three years, she went on to win her first titles at Premier Mandatory level, had her best-ever Wimbledon and US Open results and ended 2017 ranked World No.1.
But there was one thing missing from the Romanian's decorated resume in that time: a Grand Slam triumph.
Three years after falling to Sharapova, Halep experienced more Parisian heartbreak as she let a 6-4, 3-0 lead slip against first-time Grand Slam finalist Jelena Ostapenko in the 2017 championship match, and later fell to Caroline Wozniacki in a marathon three-set final in Melbourne less than a year later.
Nonetheless, it was that adversity that made her maiden victory all the sweeter: in the end, Halep authored a comeback of her own to finally lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in 2018 — rallying from her own set and a break deficit to beat Stephens in the championship.
For more classic moments, check out our other French Open Flashbacks:
1999: Stefanie Graf wins 22nd and final Grand Slam title