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Advanced Edition: Simona Halep maintains perfect streak at Wimbledon with third Slam in sight
As the most experienced player left in the women’s draw, Halep is in pole position to capture another major title at SW19.
Published Jul 06, 2022
WATCH: Halep spoke with Tennis Channel after her big win over Badosa.
Trite as it sounds, it was truly a lifetime ago when Halep last played Centre Court and dismantled Serena Williams to capture an improbable Wimbledon title over the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
The Romanian returned an entire pandemic later and somehow picked up right where she left off from 2019, playing flawless tennis to plant No. 4 seed Paula Badosa and reach her first major quarterfinal in 18 months. Injuries, upheaval, and anxiety have wreaked havoc on the woman who looked poised to become the WTA tour’s leading lady in early 2020, but the former world No. 1 just may have at last settled into a groove—and her timing couldn’t have been better.
Halep aims to extend her Wimbledon winning streak to 12 matches in a row when she takes on American rival Amanda Anisimova, whom she just beat two weeks ago in Bad Homburg, and as the only remaining major finalist left in the women’s draw, is looking like the favorite to capture a third major title on Saturday.
Can the 30-year-old earn some overdue redemption at SW19? Here’s why she will—and what she she still has to watch out for:
Why She’ll Win
Her play through the grass swing had set the stage for what had been an encouraging—if unremarkable—run to the second week, but once she made her way back to Centre Court, it was the Halep of old, outclassing Badosa and allowing the higher-ranked Spaniard just three games on Monday.
“I worked really hard in the past two, three months,” she said after the match. “I'm really happy with all that I've done. That's why I'm starting to play better and better.
“I got the confidence. I really feel this is my game. I'm pushing myself to do it as much as possible. I want to improve still, so I'm really looking forward to work more and to be able to do it better.”
Though her forthcoming quarterfinal against Anisimova immediately brings back memories of the American’s breakthrough win over the then-defending champion at Roland Garros 2019, Halep has gotten the better of her young nemesis in their two subsequent matches, including a vengeful drubbing in Paris in the following year.
She would then get one of two flat hitters in Elena Rybakina or Ajla Tomljanovic in the semifinals, both of whom have pushed her to the brink in previous matches, and likely a second crack at Jabeur in a projected championship clash. Should any of this trio trouble her in a big-match setting? Not if Halep is playing this well and feeling this confident.
What To Watch Out For
To describe Halep’s 2022 season as up and down would be an understatement. She began the year with a 23rd career title—and first in 16 months—Down Under during the Melbourne Summer Set, only to wilt in the Australian Open heat to Alizé Cornet and send the Frenchwoman in to her first major quarterfinal in 63 tries.
She looked back towards her best at the BNP Paribas Open, where she gave a streaking Iga Swiatek all she could handle in the semifinals, only to pull up injured and miss the second half of the Sunshine Swing in Miami.
Her coaching switch to Patrick Mouratoglou seemingly proved immediate dividends when she rolled into the Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinals with wins over Badosa and Coco Gauff, but a thudding loss to Ons Jabeur halted her momentum and she suffered an emotional low at Roland Garros, enduring a panic attack during her second-round defeat to Zheng Qinwen.
“It was coming from nowhere because I was leading the match,” she explained before the tournament. “Probably just the pressure of the tournament, the fact that I struggled last year. I didn't believe that I'm strong enough probably.
“But now I feel stronger and I feel that if it's going to happen again, I will know how to handle it.”
Still, for as much big-match experience as Halep has had, she hasn’t had too much of late, and that could neutralize a key advantage against any of the hungry opponents who stand between her and the title. She must continue balancing her trademark consistency with a willingness to take risks, something that may prove more straightforward against anyone other than Jabeur, whose variety and streaky play could flummox Halep into flatness in a final.
Simona Halep has been so close to a breakthrough all season, and she says she finally feels ready to make one. Now she has to prove it.