Simona Halep, a 22-year-old Romanian player, failed to win her first Grand Slam title in Paris, losing to Maria Sharapova in a tight match. Little mishaps steered the course of the match in the end, but Simona Halep will be the player to watch in future for sure.
Simona Halep began playing at 4, and started practicing every day at 6. She was born in Constantza, but moved to Bucharest when she was 16, when it was clear that she had a chance to have a proper career in tennis.
Halep had a fruitful youth career - she was the winner of the Roland Garros junior tournament in 2008. In the same year, she lost in the semis of the first Grand Slam, Australian Open.
After the success in Paris, she quit the junior circuit, and started to play ITF tournaments.
She won a few smaller ITF tournaments, mostly in Romania, but in 2009 she made a big life decision, which men around the world disliked. Halep reduced her 34DD breasts to “only” 34C.
Simona explained that she was really uncomfortable playing before the reduction surgery, she felt massive weight, and she additionally experienced back pain.
It is interesting that she said that she didn’t like her breasts anyway, and she would have gone to surgery even if she wasn’t an athlete!
If we ask an average guy, she certainly made a terrible mistake, but Halep certainly knows better than your average guy, since she's not experiencing horrible pain anymore and she made a jump of 450 places on the WTA list.
Her breakthrough began in 2010 when she started to feature regularly at the WTA tour. In the tournament in Fes, she broke into the main draw after beating her opponents in the qualifications. On the road to the final she beat Patty Shnyder, former top 10 player, and Lucie Hradecka, but failed to win against her compatriot Iveta Benesova in the final.
It was expected that the career of junior slam winner would move at a fast pace from that moment onwards, but that didn’t happen. A whole year has passed until Halep reached another final in Fes, but now she lost to Italian Brianti. On the slams, she reached the third round of Australian Open, in the US Open she managed to do major upset, when she beat Na Li in the first round, but as the Chinese made 50 unforced errors in that match, it was clear that she played miserably and wasn't difficult to overcome.
Halep lost in the second round to Carla Suarez Navaro.
2012 was similar, one WTA final and only one slam victory, at US Open.
After the season of 2012, the stories began that Halep was another wasted talent, and that she would slowly fade, never breaking into the top 20 or 10 players in the world.
Halep often showed frustration on the court, she was rarely calm, and her opponents capitalized on that.
And then, all has changed in 2013. Halep herself said that she was starting reconsider her plans about achieving her goals in tennis, and think about her attitude on the court and her game in general.
She came up with a plan that she must find a way to enjoy her playing time, and to be relaxed. She managed to do just that, she completely changed her headspace, and results started to come.
Halep won her first title in June, with a victory over Andrea Petkovic in Nurnberg. And she didn’t stop there, she won five more titles in 2013, until November, and became the first player who did that ever since Steffi Graf achieved the same feat. She managed to get to the fourth round of US Open in that year too.
2014 had also been great for Halep, since she reached the quarterfinal in Australia, and the final in France. She is currently the 3rd ranked player in the world, and a major contender on all forthcoming big tournaments.
Halep’s game really changed throughout the years. The Romanian was an aggressive baseline hitter when she was junior. She had an amazing power for such a petite person, and her clean and well placed shots demolished her opponents. But, when she started to play at the best women’s tennis level, that power started to be insufficient to dominate.
She was probably unprepared for that huge leap, began to struggle in matches, lost confidence in her strokes, and started to lose even to the opponents she was beating easily at a lower level.
After that, Halep began to work on her movement, which wasn’t so good for someone of her size, and her game changed. She started to be a much more defensive player, who attacks only when she gets an easy ball to finish the point.
Now Halep is enjoying the fruits of her labor. Her baseline defense is nearly impossible to break through, she is very strong and consistent both on the forehand and backhand, which is really rare in women’s tennis, and that brings her an additional advantage over her opponents.
She needs to work on her serve a bit more, even though it seems it is pretty solid for her height. Also, from time to time, she is haunted by the ghosts of her past, and she becomes really nervous on the court, which often makes her more prone to errors.
Nevertheless, Halep is currently 3rd in the world, she will train even harder, and we really expect more great things to come from her.