It was a frustrating, mentally torturing spring/early summer 2017 when a French Open and several World #1 attempts slipped by for Simona Halep.
The Romanian’s coach, Darren Cahill, had to take a break in March 2017 because he didn’t like Halep’s attitude. All that seems a lifetime ago now–Halep faces fellow almost-Slam winner Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open final.
Halep’s now got Bottle in the Bank
Losses to Johanna Konta in Miami and Jelena Ostapenko in the French Open 2017 final left critics questioning Halep’s mentality. It’s still difficult to watch re-runs of that French Open match and not think Halep’s going to win in it. Jana Novotna-style choking springs to mind. There seemed little hope. Yet she still managed to start 2018 as World #1 and has already won a title (Shenzen).
It’s the manner in which Halep conducts herself in matches now that has changed. The strength of character and mentality needed to come through stern, momentum-swinging matches against Lauren Davis and Angelique Kerber at this year’s Australian Open is impressive.
Halep now has Tremendous Belief
It often takes your darkest hour (French Open final 2017) for you to do that needed soul-searching. Just like her adversary Wozniacki used the Makarova defeat early in the US Open 2017 to galvanize her tennis, so has Halep with Ostapenko-gate. Watching Simona Halep this Australian Open, regardless of the final outcome, has been a pleasure. In a sense, a personal battle has already been won.
Watch out French Open – Halep’s Coming Back
What is most worrying for Halep’s adversaries is that despite sublime performances in the Australian Open it is not her best Slam. Whatever the outcome of Saturday’s final, Simona Halep will not look back. She has a score to settle with the French Open. Given her new-found mental strength she’ll arguably be a bigger threat there.