The rather tortured global odyssey of No. 1-ranked Simona Halep finally found its way on Saturday to a patch of Roland Garros clay just behind a baseline, where the slightly built Romanian with the considerable will dropped her racket and stood, amazed, hands on head.
Halep assured herself of retaining the No. 1 ranking and reached her third final in Paris.
Halep said afterewards: 'In the last game I felt that I could not grip [the racket] any more, so I just tried not to repeat the past year. "I was dreaming for this moment since I started to play tennis".
The second set was more of a seesaw affair, with five breaks of serve - three for Halep and two for the US Open champion - sending the final to a decider.
While Keys fired far more winners during the match - 25 to Stephens' eight - she also produced a whopping 39 unforced errors - 28 more than her opponent.
The defeat left Halep reeling, and she lost to Sharapova in the first round of last year's U.S. Open. "(It) shows me that I have enough patience, I have enough power inside to stay calm", Halep said.
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Halep, who has lost all three of her Grand Slam finals - including the Australian Open, to Caroline Wozniacki, in January - arrived in Paris on a hot streak, reaching at least the quarter-finals in her last nine claycourt tournaments and losing only one set on her way to facing Kerber in Paris.
"I will try my best", Halep told the crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier, "and hopefully I will be better than previous year".
US Open champion Stephens had looked set to lift a second Grand Slam trophy when leading 6-3, 2-0, but the American 10th seed wilted in hot conditions and Halep pounced.
The 2008 Roland Garros girls' singles champion learnt a harsh lesson a year ago against Jelena Ostapenko, when she played not to lose from 3-0 up in the second set.
A hold to love meant Halep had taken eight unanswered points, and another break followed as Stephens' levels dipped for the first time in the match. If not, you have the second and the third sets of today's match, it speaks for itself. "So when I have gotten in shape and done all the things that my coach asked me to do, I just put it into the universe, like, God, look what I did, help a sister out!" Halep has won four straight meetings against Stephens, all in straight sets.
Against Keys on Friday, Stephens took full advantage of her opponent's ill discipline. Stephens continued to press Halep's backhand but the World No.1 dictated the pace on that side from the second set. After such a long wait, it feels like her time. Stephens won 71 percent of her total service points and had just 11 unforced errors.
"To Simona, congratulations on your first [grand] slam. The problem for Muguruza was the one she has often encountered in her career: she does not have a good defence once her attacking game is not working", Becker added.