PARIS – In her third straight French Open final and another three-set match, Maria Sharapova did what she does best. She refused to lose.
The No. 7 seed from Russia held off No. 4 Simona Halep 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 on Saturday for her second Roland Garros title in three years and her fifth Grand Slam championship overall.
"This is the toughest Grand Slam final I've ever played," Sharapova said on court after the win. "All respect to Simona. I thought she played an unbelievable match today."
It was the first three-set women's final at the French Open since 2001.
"I can't believe it," she said of winning another major title on clay. "I never thought 7-8 years ago that I would win more Roland Garroses when I was 27 than any other Grand Slam ….To think that I won it two times – I'm so emotional I can't even talk."
The favorite when defending champion Serena Williams toppled out in the second round, Sharapova virtually willed her way to the title.
She was pushed to three sets in her last four matches but never folded, always finding a solution and an extra gear. The 27-year-old Siberian-born Floridian improved to 27-1 in her last 28 three-setters on clay, including her last 20.
Against Halep, she needed to go the distance again.
The 22-year-old Romanian, who was playing in her first major final, served up plenty of resistance.
Broken in the opening game, Sharapova had to play some high quality tennis to win the first set. Attacking second serves, she lifted her level and broke Halep three times in an entertaining 57-minute first set.
Eventually, the pressure of Sharapova's groundstrokes wore down the 5-6 Romanian, who chased down the Russian's blasts and sent back plenty of power of her own, often going airborne as she launched into her shots.
Halep never let up either. She couldn't close out the second set after serving for it at 5-4 and 6-5 and was two points from defeat at 3-5 in the second-set tiebreaker.
But Halep, who was ranked No. 57 a year ago, showed why she is a rising star in the women's game.
Once her weakest surface, Sharapova has adapted herself into a formidable force on dirt.
She won her first 18 titles on surfaces other than clay, including majors at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and Australian Open. Ten of her 14 have come on clay, including the 2012 French Open that completed her career Grand Slam.
It showed on Saturday. Sharapova slid into her shots, fired back lasers on the run and negotiated clever angles.
Since the start of 2012, she has won 93 percent of her matches on clay (54-4), the best among active players.
Halep will leave the tournament at a career-high No. 3 when the new rankings are released Monday.
Sharapova is now tied with Martina Hingis with five Open-era major titles.