Why You Should Watch… Simona Halep

Whatever happens in the rest of her career, Simona Halep will be remembered as one of the greatest Romanian sport stars of all time. She has won two Grand Slam titles (French Open 2018 and Wimbledon 2019) and she has been ever-present in the World’s Top Ten since she first broke into it in January 2014. She is a fantastic player to watch for the following reasons:

Brilliant Technique

If you want to watch tennis at its most skilful, Halep is one of the best players to see in action. She hits superb two-handed backhands and has a very versatile forehand that she can do all sorts of things with. She can also hit both cross-court and down-the-line winners with both her forehand and backhand, which means that she always keeps her opponents guessing.

One of the key reasons why the Romanian is able to strike her shots so well is down to her sublime footwork. Time and again, she gets into the perfect positions to play her shots. She times her movements and gets the balance of her body exactly right to swing the racket through with as much precision and power as she can muster.

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Superb Athleticism

Halep’s brilliant technique is supported by her excellent physical fitness. She is amazingly fast and has lots of stamina. She also has very strong legs and the kind of lean physique that is ideally suited to running and leaping around a tennis court for a few hours.

One thing that could hold the Romanian back is her height. She is just five-foot-six, which means she lacks the natural advantages afforded to tall players on a tennis court. However, Halep makes up for this literal shortfall by being agile, nimble and very quick, so she can often out-manoeuvre taller players who cannot change direction or body position as rapidly as she can.

Boundless Determination

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You cannot get to the top in any sport without having an extraordinary will to win, and Halep’s determination to be the best is clear. When she became World No.1 for the first time, she said, “My dream is true now. It’s the best moment in my life.”

Since the Romanian reached the summit in October 2017, she fought hard to stay there for as long as possible. She managed it for most of 2018, before several injuries and the emergence of new stars such as Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty caused her to slip as low as No.8 in June 2019. However, Halep was not fazed by this. She used all of her skill and determination to rise back up to World No.2 before the 2020 season was paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Within matches, Halep chases the ball down like her life depends on it. When she is fully focused, she never gives in and she really makes opponents beat her. Furthermore, even if the Romanian has a bad spell during a match, she is capable of re-discovering her form and turning the match around.

Passion

If a match is closely fought and Halep is fully focused, you can tell how determined she is to win from her facial expressions and her body language. If she wins an important game, she often pumps her fist and gives her opponent an icy stare. And if the Romanian hits a great shot on a crucial point, she tends to celebrate with an extravagant flourish of her fist and sometimes even accompanies it with a roar of delight.

If things are not going well for Halep, she often tells herself off. And if that does not produce the results she is after, she might try berating her coach, as many other players like to do. Although these habits are just indicative of her strong will to win, she has tried to cut them out to some extent as she correctly identifies them as negative body language. However, these moments certainly give viewers a compelling insight into what is going on in her head.

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Entertaining Matches

Halep’s skill, athleticism and determination make her one of the most formidable opponents on the WTA tour. She has a great defensive player for many years, and her fellow professionals have often said that it is almost impossible to get the ball past her.

Additionally, in recent years the Romanian has improved her attacking play, which means she can win more convincingly more often, and she can even thrash some of the top players in the world when she is at her best.

The players most at risk of a hammering by Halep are the ones with relatively poor movement, like Karolina Pliskova. In some of their matches, it is like the Romanian is toying with the Czech, as she drags her all over the court and keeps her constantly off-balance with her clever shot placement.

Famously, Halep exposed the deficiencies of movement of the great Serena Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final, as she produced an absolute masterclass to beat the 23-time Grand Slam champion 6-2 6-2 in just 56 minutes.

The Romanian’s style of play also leads to entertaining matches with opponents who are similar to her, such as Elina Svitolina. When Halep faces the Ukrainian, you can expect to see long rallies full of dramatic shots on the run as the two superb athletes try to outlast one another. Whatever the outcome, their encounters are always exciting to watch. They are also very unpredictable due to their similar strengths, as their 5-5 head-to-head record indicates.

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