Sometimes, on days when a lot is at stake, things just don’t go the way they’re meant to. Days just don’t work out. Unfortunately for Simona Halep, however, days like these seem to be all-too familiar occurrence. Her defeat to Garbiñe Muguruza in the Southern and Western Open final signified another blow for her chances of becoming Romania’s first World #1 female tennis player–but there is plenty to be optimistic about, if you’re a Simona Halep fan, in the run up to the US Open.
For starters, Halep just came up against a better opponent on the day. Although she apologized to the crowd following the match for her own performance, she was quick to praise how wonderful Garbiñe Muguruza’s had been, and rightfully so. Muguruza didn’t allow Halep to settle into any kind of rhythm during the match, and she served unbelievably well throughout. The high humidity helped to maximise the effectiveness of Muguruza’s aggressive baseline game, and it would have been difficult for any player to come up against a player in that sort of form, in those conditions, World #2 or not. Despite Muguruza being in such imperious form, Halep still offered glimpses of her own brilliance, and this will come as a positive for her if she blots out all of the errors. For instance, in the fourth game of the second set, she showed why she was World #2. She attacked Muguruza’s serve, and took the game to her. Had she started the match in the same way that she started the fourth game of the second set, we might be talking about a different score line altogether. Nonetheless, alongside Muguruza’s incredible form, it was also clear that the sense of expectation was too great for Halep to bear, and this is something that she needs to deal with if she is to make that #1 spot hers.
The pressure of this match was just too much for Halep to handle this time around. With history beckoning, it is understandable that she would be nervous going into this final. In tennis, wanting something mercilessly does not necessarily translate to a good performance on-court, and that is perhaps where Halep is going wrong. She wants that #1 spot so badly that she overthinks situations, and forgets to trust in her incredible ability. Although she didn’t make history on the 20th August 2017, she will still have many more opportunities to do so, especially with Flushing Meadows around the corner. Let us also not forget that she has outperformed the current World #1, Karolína Plíšková, in the past two tournaments that they have both contested. Both of these facts should give her plenty of confidence going into the US Open. If anything, this latest setback serves as a wake-up call that she cannot take any results for granted, especially at this level.
If Halep can successfully forget about the negatives of her latest result and the historical impact of her possible ascension to #1, then she has nothing to worry about. The Grand Slam title will come eventually, just ask Andy Murray or Ivan Lendl. Halep just needs to keep at it and stay motivated, and if she does that, she may well be the world’s best tennis player come the end of the year.
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