Simona Halep: A WTA Queen Finally With A Crown
At her fourth attempt, world No. 1 Simona Halep has finally captured that elusive Grand Slam title capping off an amazing fortnight in Paris.
PARIS – It was bound to happen sooner or later. Simona Halep – who has been world No. 1 for 32 weeks – has finally won her maiden Grand Slam title. The Romanian’s success in Paris comes after Caroline Wozniacki captured the first Slam of the year in Australia winning an enthralling final against Simona herself. Wozniacki had spent 67 weeks at No. 1 before finally elevating her career to new heights with her first major win.
Halep has been at the top of the women’s game for the last few years, second only to Serena Williams. Simona’s inability to capture a major championship was almost inexplicable.
Her losses clearly had nothing to do with her talent and technique. They are more mental than physical or technical. During last year’s French Open final, Halep was up 6-4, 3-0 against the inexperienced Jelena Ostapenko and ended up losing the match anyway. In the 2014 final, the Romanian squandered two game points to lead 3-1 in the third set against Maria Sharapova, before succumbing to the Russian superstar. In Australia earlier this year, she was leading 4-3 in the third against Wozniacki when she lost three games in a row allowing the Dane to win the title. I remember when Simona arrived in the press room in Melbourne and we all felt so bad for her that we were almost afraid to ask any questions. “Come on, nobody died!” the Romanian joked trying to break the ice.
This morning her coach Darren Cahill told her: “You have to win this one!” He decided to intentionally put more pressure on his player in order to convince her that she needed to step up and grab the match by the throat. Of course, Simona thanked him after the match.
I personally don’t think that it was the right approach though. In fact, Simona found herself down 6-3, 2-0. At that point, Halep started thinking about what happened to her a year ago. “I kept thinking about that match,” Simona candidly confessed in her post-match press conference. “If it happened to me, I thought that it could happen to her too.”
From that moment on, Halep won 12 of the last 15 games. At her fourth attempt, Simona is finally a Grand Slam champion, 40 years after Virginia Ruzici – her countrywoman and manager who won the French Open in 1978. Ion Tiriac was also in Simona’s box to offer some valuable Romanian support.
During the final, it almost felt like we were in Bucharest instead of Paris. About 3,000 Romanian fans were in stands and chanted “Simona, Simona!” at every point.
Halep has always had extraordinary defensive skills and has built her career little by little, becoming an aggressive counterpuncher despite her small frame – she is 5′ 6″ tall and weighs 132 lbs.: “At 14 I decided that tennis was going to be my life, at 18 I won the junior tournament here and since then I have been dreaming of winning the trophy that I finally have here next to me and I will always keep in my heart. Paris is my favorite city. I felt that I was missing something when I became No. 1 without winning a Slam… thank goodness I did not win in Melbourne!” Halep joked.
On route to her French Open title, Halep defeated Riske 26 61 61, Townsend 63 61, Petkovic 75 60, Mertens 62 61, Kerber 67 63 62, Muguruza 61 64 and Stephens 36 64 61.
When the new WTA ranking comes out on Monday, the last four major champions will also be the first four ranked players in the world. Rightly so.
Stephens will be the highest ranked American after the Williams sisters dominated U.S. tennis for many years.
(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )