Halep came out swinging in the decider, using stellar defense to chase down everything Stephens threw at her, and breaking to start the third set. But Stephens rebounded to break back for 2-2 after a scorching forehand winner.
However, Halep claimed a pivotal game when she erased a 40-0 lead for Stephens to break for 3-2 in the following game, as the American fired five consecutive unforced errors. Halep stayed consistent, keeping the rallies long, and raced to a 5-2, double-break lead, as the Stephens miscues mounted.
The No.3 seed put up a valiant effort to stay in the encounter after Halep squandered her first match point at 5-2 with a double fault. The Romanian fired two errors on the next two points to drop serve, and then could not convert either of two championship points on the Stephens serve, the American saving the final chance with a winning volley en route to a hold for 5-4.
Halep, though, would not be denied, using some of her most powerful serving and hitting at the very end of the match, setting up two more championship points after Stephens returned a strong serve wide. Finally, on her fourth match point, Halep slammed her third ace of the match, and fell to her knees in triumph and exhaustion after a grueling fight.
More to follow…