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Toughest Grand Slam final: Sharapova

Paris: Maria Sharapova, who claimed her second French Open title when she floored Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 after a marathon encounter in Saturday’s final, said this was the toughest Grand Slam final she has played.

“This is the toughest Grand Slam final I have ever played. I respect Simona a lot, I thought she played an unbelievable match today,” Sharapova said.

“I can’t believe it, seven or eight years ago I would not have thought that I would win more Roland Garros than any other Grand Slam. “To think I won it twice... I’m so emotional now I can’t talk.”

The wily Romanian had forced a decider just as Sharapova seemed to have ended her resistance. The Russian, however, had won the last 19 three-set matches she had played on clay since losing to Justine Henin in the third round at Roland Garros in 2010 and made it 20 with a characteristically gutsy display.

“There were a lot of different keys and there were a lot of ups and downs in the match. Just when I thought I was very close to winning it, I had lost four points in a row. Then it was equal... You find yourself in a position where you feel like you’re starting over, which is quite difficult.

“I just took a moment to reflect and try to think of the things that I was doing to hurt her and the things that were giving me an advantage in the game.

“I knew that she was playing well, and despite all thatů I still wanted to continue to try to do those things well no matter how frustrating it was to lose that second setů I came out well. We broke each other a few times. That’s the story,” explained Sharapova.

She was also all praise for her support staff. “Yeah, every single one of my team members have done an incredible job. Some are new; some have been there for a while.

“They have just been so encouraging. I have been through a few different teams in my career, many different people, some coaches, physios, trainers... I’ve said this before that I had never been more happy with the way the team has worked together.”

Sharapova also spoke about her hardwork. “It’s really amazing. I feel that I worked hard to get to this position. There’s nothing else. There is no substitute in these titles. You can’t just go out there and just do it without putting in the effort, putting in the work.

“You’re not just born being a natural clay court player. Okay, maybe if you’re 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. There is no one else that was going to do that for me. I had to do the hard work.”

Halep gave due credit to Sharapova. “It’s my first Grand Slam page, emotionally it’s difficult,” said Halep.

“I hope there will be many more but this one will be special for me all my life. Congrats Maria you’re a great champion.”