World No 1 Simona Halep developing an aura of invincibility
It has taken her a while, but Simona Halep has blossomed into a WTA Tour powerhouse.
Many questioned her big-game temperament, and for good reason, after her breakthrough year in 2014 when she finished runner-up at the French Open and reached No 2 in the world.
The doubters were certainly given ammunition over the next three years as she just couldn’t get right to the top, both in terms of the rankings and the Grand Slams.
Even when she ascended to the top of the world rankings for the first time in October 2017, becoming only the seventh player to reach No 1 without winning a Grand Slam, questions remained about her mentality in the big moments.
She didn’t do herself justice at 2017 WTA Tour Finals as she bombed out after winning only one match during the round-robin stage, and then few months later at the Australian Open the guns were out again as she came up short against Caroline Wozniacki in the final.
It was a valiant effort, but tennis – and sport in general – is a cut-throat business and you need to win the big ones.
But here we are a few months down the line and now Halep is “owning” that the No 1 crown.
“It has taken her a while to grow into the role, but Simona Halep is definitely looking and playing like the world number one,” tennis great Martina Navratilova asserted during an interview with wtatennis.com recently.
Of course, a lot of it has to do with winning her maiden Grand Slam, the French Open, in May as it took a massive weight off her shoulders and we now see her playing with newfound freedom.
Since her Roland Garros glory she has won the Rogers Cup and could add the Cincinnati Masters title to her collection as she will take on Kiki Bertens in Sunday’s final. Sandwiched between the French Open and Rogers Cup glory was a disappointing third-round exit at Wimbledon.
Halep, though, is starting to build up an aura of invincibility and her reign as world No 1 may well be a long one.
The likes Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza and Karoline Pliskova have faltered in their pursuit of Halep in recent months with Sloane Stephens now looking like her closest challenger.
The WTA Tour is in desperate need of a powerhouse figure, especially as Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova are edging closer to retirement, and for now they have that figure in Halep as she is a cut above the rest.
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