Halep poised for first Grand Slam as legitimate contender

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May 22, 2014 by Parveer Mann

Even with her early withdrawal last week, Simona Halep must have felt good returning to Rome and the site of her first breakthrough 52 weeks ago. At that time, Halep was the unheralded Romanian who had spent just over a year on tour without much success until she embarked on a magical run through qualifiers to the semifinals by beating the likes of Aga Radwanska and Jelena Jankovic.

Halep celebrates her biggest win to date in Qatar earlier this year. (Image available on xinhuanet.com)

Halep celebrates her biggest win to date in Qatar earlier this year. (Image available on xinhuanet.com)

Now, after a year of unprecedented success and the best ranking ever by a Romanian woman (No. 4), Halep enters Roland Garros not as an afterthought but one of a handful of legitimate French Open contenders.

Simona’s big year

I know that it would probably surprise many that since Rome last year, Halep has won more tournaments and has more tour victories than every player except Serena Williams. Most of those tournaments have been smaller International events but her win in Doha earlier this year proved she could compete and win against quality fields.


Most tournament wins and Tour Wins  on WTA since Rome 2013


Tournaments Won

Tour Wins

Serena Williams



Simona Halep



Agnieszka Radwanskaa



Li Na



Even though Halep was a well-respected junior who won the Girls French Open title in 2008, she still seemingly came up the middle and took wins and attention away from more touted players in 2013. The driving force behind the resurgence was a better first serve percentage (67.7 percent, ninth in WTA last year) and her proficiency in return games and service games won (50.8 percent and 55.4 percent, respectively). Those figures were both Top 3 on tour and an indication of how Halep could remain in so many matches without a traditional big-serve.

These markers and tournament wins earned her WTA’s most improved player award and a new place in the tennis order. However, despite her career best QF finish in Australia this year, I feel Halep should only feel the pressure and expectations that comes as a Grand Slam favourite for the first time in Paris next week. Most will assume it is a surface she favours and her ranking will ensure that she has her own quarter in the draw.

It’ll be fascinating to see how she adapts to the pressure and if her 52 week ascendance is only a signal of things to come.

Ranking the Contenders (Women’s Field)

1. Serena Williams (Head and shoulders above the field)

2. Maria Sharapova (Most consistent clay player these past three years)

3. Li Na (The 2011 champ will try to win the second leg of the Grand Slam)

T4. Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska (Both will control portions of the draw)

Best of the rest: Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Sam Stosur and Sara Errani (All have had previous success in Paris)

* Remember all this can change based on an unfavourable draw


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