Simona Halep of Romania plays a forehand during the women's singles final against Sloane Stephens of the US at the 2018 French Open on Saturday in Paris. Photo: VCG
Newly crowned French Open champion Simon Halep said she was inspired to win her first Grand Slam title by her manager Virginia Ruzici's feats 40 years ago at Roland Garros.
Until Saturday, Ruzici's 1978 Paris triumph over Mima Jausovec was the last time a Romanian, man or woman, had won a Grand Slam but Halep ended that long wait as she hit back to beat American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
In doing so, Halep equaled the feat of American seven-time French Open champion Chris Evert who also suffered three Grand Slam final losses before capturing the 1974 French title.
"It's a motivation and inspiration," the 26-year-old Halep, who lifted the junior title 10 years ago, told reporters with Ruzici sitting alongside her.
"Forty years ago she won here. It's a special moment. The fact that it's happened here, it's pretty special. So yeah, she's an inspiration."
Ruzici, who also lost the 1980 final and was the inspiration for Richard Williams to teach his daughters Venus and Serena to play tennis, said Halep's win was well-deserved.
"There is of course a lot of emotion," she told reporters.
"She was very close last season. She was favorite for this final but it was not simple. It was a physical and mental fight."
Halep climbed to the top of the rankings in October and has been there more or less ever since.
The elephant in the room remained her lack of a Grand Slam trophy having twice lost the title match in Paris, to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapenko last year, and at this year's Australian Open to Caroline Wozniacki.
By beating Spain's former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals Halep guaranteed that she extended her stay as the world's No.1 player - a position she has held now for 32 weeks in total.
Halep said the memory of last year's defeat by Ostapenko after she led by a set and 3-0 actually helped her on Saturday when she trailed by a set and 2-0 to an inspired Stephens.
"When I started to win games, I said that last year it happened to me, the same thing," she said.
"I was a set and a break up and I lost the match. So I said there is a chance to come back and win it."
Halep's French title arrived in the 32nd Grand Slam of her career. Only seven players have taken more attempts to land one.
Her patience finally paid off as she used all her experience to weather the Stephens storm.