For Simona Halep the most recent heart-break came against Johanna Konta at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals. Halep was in cruise control in the second set, having won the first only for Konta to claw it back and take the tie break – and we all know what happened next.
Although, this was the latest episode where the Romanian was a set from, arguably deservedly, becoming women’s World No. 1. It was the not the most painful; that occurred at the French Open 2017. That time it was the final and an unseeded opponent: Jelena Ostapenko stood between the Romanian and a double-whammy of that first Slam and No. 1 status.
Rome is where it all started to go wrong for Halep
Before delving into post-mortem analysis of why World No. 1 status eludes the charming Romanian, you have to go back before that to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, on clay in Rome this May. Halep used the momentum from successfully defending her Madrid Open crown and looked set to dominate the clay season, breezing through to the final in Rome. This is where she had the emerging Ukrainian Elina Svitolina on the floor, let alone the ropes, as Halep went a set and a break up. Nothing could possibly go wrong, or could it?
The ruthless streak that makes being a World No.1 and Grand Slam champion possible continued to flow through Halep. Then, fate cruelly intervened – Halep broke down with an ankle ligament injury. The capitulation that resulted from this occurrence that resulted in Svitolina lifting the trophy was agonizing to witness, even for the most objective neutral.
Halep never fully recovered from Rome
Finishing the job in Rome would have meant that Simona Halep would have amassed enough ranking points to have been No. 1, before the aforementioned French Open and Wimbledon Ostapenko and Konta respective slip-ups. Also, in the French Open 2017 semifinal, Simona Halep recovered from a second set blip against Karolina Pliskova, taking control in the final set and looking assured in a pressurized situation, to book her spot in the final.
Although there is a bit of work to do in the mental strength area, you cannot overlook the lingering effects of the injury that started in Rome. This is especially given the fact that Halep was far from certain to even take her place in the French Open this year until late in the day.
Change of luck on hard courts?
The current World No. 2, Simona Halep has accepted a wild card invitation to the Citi Open this week – kicking off her hard court season campaign. She takes on home favourite Sloane Stephens, who is returning from an injury break, in the first round. This is where Halep fans will be scoffing up crumbs of comfort just like Homer Simpson does with the remaining contents of a doughnut box. Halep did not have a bad end at all to the season on hard courts last year, winning the Rogers Cup and pushing Serena Williams hard in defeat in the quarterfinals of the US Open.
All eyes will be on her performance as the season reaches its conclusion, especially as current World No. 1 and 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova won’t be giving much away. Halep is not done yet though, but a lot of focused soul-searching is needed. Pliskova has far more points to defend, though, so the No. 1 spot may be in reach for the Romanian. If the opportunity arises again, will she be able to take it this time?