Defeats Romania’s Halep in record second longest final.
Maria Sharapova won her second French Open title in three years at Roland Garros on Saturday, defeating Romania’s Simona Halep 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 in a gripping final, the first to go the full distance in Paris in 13 years and the second longest on record.
At three hour two minutes, it was just two minutes shy of the 1996 final between Steffi Graf and Aranxta Sanchez.
It was the 27-year-old Russian’s fifth Grand Slam title, bringing her level with Martina Hingis on the all-time list and it came 10 years after she won her first major at Wimbledon 2004.
But it took all her legendary grit and resolve to recover from the loss of the second set on a tie-break after she had stood just two points away from the title at 5/3.
“It’s the toughest Grand Slam final I have ever played,” said Sharapova.
“I can’t believe that at 27 I have won the French Open more times than any other grand slam.”
It was yet another shaky start from Sharapova as the final got underway on a sun-splashed and sultry centre court.
She dropped serve in the first game and was soon 2-0 down, but the Russian promptly found her range and she was back level after a thrilling fourth game that saw several deuces and some big hitting from both ends.
She broke Halep’s serve again to lead 4-2, but three games later her suspect serve once more let her down and the Romanian broke back.
Halep though was unable to level the score as she dropped serve for the third time, handing Sharapova the set in 57 minutes.
Sharapova opened the second set with a confident love game on serve and then came out on top in another lengthy deuce tussle to move 2-0 ahead.
Yet Halep broke back to level at 2-2 and then stunned Sharapova in the tie-break that followed to win four points in a row from 5-3 down to level the set scores.
The final was into the third set for the first time since 2001 when Jennifer Capriati defeated Kim Clijsters 12-10 in the decider and it was Sharapova who found a new gear just when she needed it.
The Russian broke clear to lead 4-2, before Halep once again reeled her in to level at 4-4.
But the 16th break of serve in the next game finally saw Sharapova on her way to victory.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will clash for the 42nd time on Sunday with the French Open title and a place in the record books at stake.
World number one Nadal hopes to wrap up a ninth triumph in nine finals in Paris and take his record to 66 wins and just one defeat.
Victory would also make the 28-year-old the first man to win Roland Garros five years in a row and give him a 14th Grand Slam title.
Djokovic needs a Roland Garros trophy to become just the eighth man in history to have won all four Grand Slam events.