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Sharapova outlasts Halep to capture second French Open title

Paris, France (SportsNetwork.com) - Maria Sharapova captured her second French Open title and fifth Grand Slam crown with a three-set victory over fourth- seeded Simona Halep on Saturday.

The seventh-seeded Sharapova beat Halep by a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 margin in a match that lasted over three hours on Court Chatrier, the longest French Open women's final since 1996 when Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez.

It was also the first time a women's French Open final has been decided in three sets since 2001.

Sharapova played in her third consecutive final at Roland Garros. The Russian completed the career Grand Slam with a title here in 2012 and lost to Serena Williams in last year's marquee finale. With Saturday's victory, Sharapova became the first Russian (male or female) to win the same Grand Slam title twice.

"This was the toughest Grand Slam final I've ever played," Sharapova said in her on-court interview afterwards. "All the respect to Simona. I thought she just played an unbelievable match today.

"I can't believe it. I never thought seven or eight years ago that I'd win more Roland Garroses when I was 27 years old than any other Grand Slam. It's a dream come true. This tournament means so much to me. And to think I've won it two times now -- I'm so emotional, I can't even talk right now!"

The 22-year-old Halep, who won the 2008 Roland Garros girls' singles championship, put forth a strong showing in her first career Grand Slam final.

Halep, who was trying to become the second Romanian woman to win a grand slam title after her manager Virginia Ruzici won at Roland Garros in 1978, started strong and held steady before eventually falling to Sharapova.

"This is my first Grand Slam final speech, but I wish to have many more," Halep said. "First I'd like to say congratulations Maria. You're a great champion and you played really well, and you really deserved this title. I wish you all of the best for the future.

"I've had two incredible weeks here. It was an amazing tournament for me. I played my best and I'm happy you guys all came every match to support me. I want to thank all of you -- and also to the people back home in Romania, I just want to say thank you to all of you as well for all of your support."

In the first set, Sharapova fell behind 2-0 before using her forehand to win five straight games. The Russian lost the next two games but won the set on her opponent's serve.

A tightly contested second set went to a tiebreak. Sharapova raced out to a 5-3 lead, two points from victory, but Halep won the next four points of the tiebreak to send the match to a deciding third set.

The momentum shifted back-and-forth in the third set before Sharapova finally prevailed. After breaking at love to serve for the match, Sharapova fired a forehand that Halep could not get back into the court -- and the Russian dropped to her knees and buried her face in her hands.

The 27-year-old Sharapova overcame 12 double faults to continue her dominance on clay, improving to 54-4 on the surface since the start of the 2012 season. She has also won 27 of her last 28 matches on clay decided in three sets, including 20 straight.

The Russian played in her ninth Grand Slam championship match (5-4) and 54th overall career final (32-22). Sharapova improved to 3-1 in her 2014 finals.

Halep fell to 7-5 in her career WTA finals, including 1-2 this season.

The veteran Sharapova improved to 4-0 lifetime against Halep, including a win on clay in the final in Madrid just last month.

Sharapova took home $2.245 million with the victory.

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