Maria revels in emotional win

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Maria Sharapova kisses the trophy after winning the French Open in a thrilling three-set final (AP) Maria Sharapova kisses the trophy after winning the French Open in a thrilling three-set final (AP)

Maria Sharapova hugged the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen as she reflected on the most emotional of her five grand slam titles.

Sharapova had to battle for three hours and two minutes to finally end the challenge of first-time grand slam finalist Simona Halep.

The Romanian has had an incredible 12 months and she very nearly capped it with the biggest victory of them all but Sharapova showed her remarkable competitive instinct to come through 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-4.

From feeling like clay was an alien surface, Sharapova has turned it into her most successful stage.

This was her third successive final at Roland Garros, having won the title for the first time in 2012 before losing to Serena Williams 12 months ago, and this is the first time she has won the same trophy more than once at any slam.

Sharapova said: "If somebody had told me that at some stage in my career I'd have more Roland Garros titles than any other grand slam I'd probably go get drunk, or tell them to get drunk.

"It's really amazing. I feel that I worked to get to this position. There is no substitute in these titles. You can't just go out there and do it without putting in the effort.

"You're not just born being a natural clay?court player. Okay, maybe if you're (Rafael) Nadal. But certainly not me. I didn't grow up on it, didn't play on it. I just took it upon myself to make myself better on it."

Sharapova had done it the hard way all tournament and the final was no different.

She had fought back from a set down in each of her previous three matches to take her record in three-set matches on clay to an amazing 19 successive wins.

This time she won the first set and she seemed to be in control of the second until playing four bad points from 5-3 up in the tie-break.

Halep kept reeling Sharapova back in and it was the same in the third set as she fought back from 4-2 to 4-4 only for the Russian to win eight straight points to clinch victory.

Sharapova sunk to her knees in the clay before climbing up through the president's box to celebrate with coach Sven Groeneveld and her team.

The 27-year-old played only one match after Wimbledon last year because of a shoulder injury and struggled to rediscover her best form during the first three months of this season.

She said: "It's the most emotional victory for me. The toughest one physically that I've come across in a final, especially a grand slam. There are not too many finals that you go past three hours.

"T o look back seven or eight years and to think that I would be in that position, I would come through against an opponent that makes you play and hit-and-run and hits so many shots and recovers, in conditions that start from cold to being warm today.

"So much adversity is thrown at you, and I'm just proud I came through and I adjusted in all different situations and I end up with this (trophy)."

Halep was emotional at the end of the match and sat down on her chair with a towel over her head.

She said: "I was crying at that moment for a few minutes, and then I was smiling because I said that it was my first grand slam final and I have to be happy, to smile, because I did everything on court.

"I played very good tennis. So I'm really proud about these two weeks. It was an amazing feeling on court today."

The 22-year-old, who will climb to number three in the rankings on Monday, had never made it past the quarter-finals at a grand slam before arriving in Paris.

Halep felt the decisive moment came at 4-4 in the deciding set when a Sharapova shot was called out but over-ruled by umpire Kader Nouni.

Halep wanted to replay the point but Nouni, who was very lenient with Sharapova's slow play, ruled the call had not affected Halep's shot, which flew out of court.

She said: "I thought that we have to replay the point because I touched the ball. But the rule is, no, if I don't put the ball in the court, we cannot replay the point. So I think that ball was very important at that moment.

"After that, I couldn't manage my nerves maybe and I couldn't stay very focused for the next points. That's it. That's life. So I have to look forward, to work harder, and to play many more finals."

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