The popular Romanian, who had lost three major finals before Saturday, showed signs of nerves at first but recovered to outclass her 10th-seeded opponent.
Clijsters, here in Paris as a television analyst, is among the many who offered encouragement to Halep over the past year as she tried to rebound from her latest Grand Slam disappointments.
"In the last game I didn't feel like I could breathe any more and I didn't want to repeat past year, so I did everything I could".
"I think I worked really hard coming back and getting in the gym, and when I was chubby trying to get skinny and when I was out of shape getting back in shape", she said after seeing off close friend Madison Keys in the semi-finals on Thursday.
Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of Serena Williams and commentator for Eurosport, believes Thiem has the game to upset Nadal, but he'll need to execute his game plan perfectly. She fell in three sets, just as she had to Maria Sharapova in the French Open final three years earlier, and just as she would in the 2018 Australian Open final to Caroline Wozniacki.
On Saturday, Halep finally broke through, becoming the first Romanian woman to win the French Open in 40 years. I will say this, though.
The 26-year-old Romanian began the muggy afternoon on Court Philippe-Chatrier having been to this stage before but never able to display her best.
Her consistently errant groundstrokes allowed Stephens to secure a 6-4, 6-4 triumph in and hour and 17 minutes.
But she held it together in the second set before surging to the line in the decider and making her superior pedigree on clay tell.
At 6-3 2-0 it looked like the American's passable impression of a human wall was going to prove too much for Halep and consign her to a third defeat in the championship match at Roland Garros. Halep took the trophy 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. "I wish in the future to play more finals here, because it's a really attractive tournament and it is my favourite one". The problem for Muguruza was the one she has often encountered in her career: "she does not have a good defence once her attacking game is not working", Becker added.
The match was all but ended as Halep clinched the double break in game four after some magnificent defending in one of the points of the match. "Both of us will be ready to give everything we have", she said.
"To Simona, congratulations on your first Slam".
But just as the set was slipping away from Stephens, a series of unforced errors by Halep gifted the break back for 4-4. Stephens is one of the best movers on tour, and while Halep has started to become more aggressive, she certainly can't hit many winners against the American and will have to rely on mistakes from her opponent.
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