Whatever psychological demons haunt the likes of Sam Stosur, Petra Kvitova and Ana Ivanovic--those demons leave Simona Halep alone. The Romanian, whose psyche appears to have been purified in the sanctuary of the Holy Church of Chris Evert, won the Tournament of Champions in Sofia today. Dropping her first set of the tournament, Halep defeated Stosur 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.
My only concern about Halep as she went into the final was her leg. It did bother her from time to time during the match, and she said that she, too, was worried about it before the match began, but that she really wanted to win, and that's apparently what she focused on. She was also fortunate that the injury didn't get worse.
Other than the injury issue, the match was kind of predictable. Stosur came out ready to control things, and control things she did--during the first set. After that, Halep's now-characteristic comeback began, enabling her to win the second set. In the final set, Stosur looked better and there was every reason to believe that the last set would be the most competitive one--but then, Stosur was broken. And she was broken. Unable to scare Halep away with her heavy topspin, the Australian instead struggled to find a Plan B, and allowed Halep to extract errors from her, just as she had in the previous set.
Though she has done well on a variety of surfaces, clay really make's Halep's game deadly. She has just enough time to get a good reading of exactly what her opponent is up to, and then she's ready with a counter-plan. She hits the ball deceptively hard when she needs to, and specializes in luring her opponent to a defensive position. And Stosur, for all her gifts in the serving and forehand departments, can be pushed around by a clever opponent.
With Halep, it's all about whether her serve is on. If it is, she can almost relax into her aggression. She's got the movement, the shots, the footwork, and the confidence. Developing a more consistent serve would really take some pressure off of her.
Halep has played in six finals this year, and has won all of them. For those of us who have been watching the Romanian and waiting for this for a long time, this year was the pay-off. For others, it must be quite a surprise. Romania has a strong WTA contingent, and now it has a leader. When the new rankings are published, Halep will be number 11 in the world.