Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Elegant Assassin leaves her mark on Simona Halep--and Cincinnati

Photo by Leslie Billman
The first set of the Western & Southern Open championship match seemed to last about as long as the opening ceremony, which featured the performing of three national anthems. Simona Halep failed to win on any of her five second serves, and she won with 58% of her first serves. In contrast, Garbine Muguruza served up a storm and broke Halep twice. The Romanian had no break opportunities.

Photo by Leslie Billman
I'm sure I wasn't alone in thinking that the second set might represent a "clean slate" for Halep, but Muguruza remained steady and let Halep implode. In just under an hour, 4th seed Muguruza defeated 2nd seed Halep 6-1, 6-0. The Wimbledon champion hit five winners and made three unforced errors.

Photo by Leslie Billman

I expected Muguruza to win this tournament, but I didn't expect this final. As I wrote yesterday, it may be better for Halep not to enter the U.S. Open as the world number 1, but, regardless, this has to be a terrible loss for her.

After the final, Halep said that she didn't do what her coach told her to do--that she just wasn't confident enough to execute his suggested plan. She was filled with praise for Muguruza's performance, but said that she felt shame over the scoreline, even though she knows that these kinds of losses are part of the game.

"I don’t want to go down too much and I don’t want to analyze too much," Halep said. "Maybe I feel the pressure and don’t realize it, maybe i just played bad."

Asked whether she thought she could develop any kind of control over whether she has confidence in a given match, the Romanian star smiled and said "I am like this in real life--up and down, every day."

The world number 2 said she feels no physical fatigue, but she needs some mental rest. "I leave with positives," she said.

Had Halep won, she would have taken over the number 1 ranking.

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