Halep must look forward after Roland Garros defeat!

Simona Halep had her best fortnight of tennis for three years. For the second time in her career the Romanian fought to a Roland Garros final but fell short despite being in a greater position this time around leading by a set and a break but must move on quickly as she can’t afford to look back.

Halep is a player who plays with her a heart on her sleeve which I like to see from a player to show that emotion but it can also become a bad thing as you can quickly become your own worst enemy.

Earlier on in the year Halep around Australia and Indian Wells Halep wasn’t playing well and you could see tensions from he ron court and showed a lot of emotion to her coach but before Madrid she spoke about how it’s behind her and how she is focusing more on court and in Madrid when she won the title she looked sharp.

Unfortunately in Rome it fell short for her after a bad ankle roll and for the first few matches at Roland Garros I was watching and thinking to myself don’t get carried away as she is carrying this injury but throughout the whole fortnight she was professional and composed and even in defeat she stood there like a champion and one day her day will come.

Many players on the tour have made finals and won titles but struggled to find that motivation and confidence and there has been a struggle but she can do it and with the tour so open at the moment opportunity will knock again soon but you cannot look backwards otherwise success may be hard to find.

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Next up for Halep will be Wimbledon, the Romanian doesn’t usually play a warm-up event and after a long few weeks on the clay the rest might do her some good as she looks for her first major title.

Go big and go home (with your first title)

Jelena Ostapenko was never at Roland Garros to make up the numbers. The Latvian was ranked at 47 in the world and 19 when the tournament began now she will be ranked as high as 12 and just turned 20 and what a way to celebrate than with your first career title which is just one of the four majors in the world so no big deal!

Jelena’s style of play is what helped propel her to an unthinkable title in which she hit 299 winners in 7 matches which is unheard of in tennis, Nadal hit 118 in his first 5 matches!

Every match Jelena arrived with a ‘go big or go home’ style of tennis and she did go big from the first to last match and went big, went home but with a Grand Slam title.

There was never any pressure on Ostapenko. With respect she never came into Roland Garros with much expectation on her which brings pressure and as the tournament went on and on she continued to play more freely seeing off Puig, Stosur, Wozniacki, Bacsinzky and Halep on her way to winning the title.

She wasn’t phased by anything and the crowd got behind her and her explosive style of tennis as she went from strength to strength with no fear and this could be the start of something major.

I still don’t feel there will be too much pressure on her which we have seen in the past from young players in her position. She seems to be a young lady with her feet on the ground coached by her mother and former top 20 player Anabel Medina the future does look good for the Latvian who no matter was thrown at her these last couple of weeks in Paris played with a smile on her face!

Well done Jelena!

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Photo credit – Getty Images 

3-6 1-5, Simona Survives!

In her post match interview Simona Halep said she didn’t know she was match point down in the second set tie-break. The Romanian turned her quarter final around in incredible style and deserves a lot of credit for the grit she showed from 3-6 1-5 down in the match to turn it around at the last moment possible winning 12 of the next 13 games to keep her dream of winning her first major alive.

At the same time I do feel for Svitolina who’s game capitulated and it looks like a case of seeing the finish line before it was reached.

The whole tournament so far has shown such a big step in Halep’s mental preparation, guts and determination on the court which she has lacked for a while and even admitted herself a short break from her coach made her realise she needs to be more controlled and composed on the court and what I enjoy seeing come the end of a match is that fist pump from Halep. She doesn’t overreact to winning but she knows it’s a job gone and she is two wins away from her greatest completed job!

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Forehand firing as Halep crushes Cepelova in Paris

After picking up an injury just over a week ago in Rome participation at Roland Garros was in the balance and after being drawn against Jana Cepelova in round one who defeated Halep at Wimbledon a couple of years ago it looked like being a difficult start for the Romanian but it was anything but!

With a few top players missing and early defeats for Konta and Kerber the draw has opened up and the opportunity is there for a first time winner with Halep and Svitolina top of that list.

Halep’s game has come together at the right time especially after a difficult period at Indian Wells but since she has stepped onto the clay court she has played 15 matches on the clay winning 13 and picking up her second title in a row at Madrid.

It was nice to see Halep in full flow yesterday evening she was strong coming forward, her movement at the back of the court and coming forward was exceptional, the backhand gave her safe but effective options but the main point was the forehand.

A lot of Halep’s game does come down to the forehand and it was in full flow against Cepelova and if she can keep it up we are set for an exciting fortnight in Paris.

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This still just shows the forehand in full flow from Halep, the feet are off the ground putting all the power she has behind it but the strike on the ball and the contact she gets with the bottom third of the racket flattens the ball out sending the winner cross-court as she closed out the first set.

Contender?

Most definitely!

Konta v Halep Preview – Simona’s BH has been strong but here’s why I think Jo should target it!

British number one Johanna Konta is safely through to the next round in Miami after a shaky start against Lara Arruabarrena but then quickly cruised through the quarter final where she now faces a tough opponent in the stubborn Simona Halep but how can she get the better of the Romanian?

Simona has struggled this year to find form on the tour but has look solid this week in Indian Wells with some very good performances against Anett Kontaveit and Sam Stosur in her last couple of matches but if anything like Jo she faces her toughest test.

Quick points

Simona has been good defending the baseline this week. Her serve, backhand and forehand have been solid and when rallies progress she has become more dangerous and an inevitability she will win the point. Jo has been good this week in progressing during rallies with the serve out wide being effective followed by that backhand cross court to end points quickly.

Low backhand

In a piece the other day I spoke about the low backhand of Halep and how it was playing well but I felt still needed some work but watching her against Stosur she seems to be hitting it really well and getting good angles off it.

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The backhand in the past has been a shot that breaks down easily and this is what has haltered her progression at tournaments when players have targeted that corner but she is finding that pull on the shot right now as shown above.

Target the backhand?

It is funny to praise a shot but the backhand can be an issue for Halep under pressure. Against Stosur we saw Halep dictate but under pressure is where it can break down and I think we could see a lot of backhand to backhand rallies from Jo and Simona and if Jo can get that power and depth behind it and not allow Simona to settle she could have a chance.

Halep finding form in Miami and why the backhand still might need some work!

For the first time this year Simona Halep has won back to back matches. The world number five has struggled to find momentum this year but in Miami she has started to find some form and was very impressive against Anett Kontaveit last night.

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6-3 6-0 is a pretty routine score-line but during the first seven games of the match it was very close and Anett was producing some stunning shots off the forehand and backhand wing but Halep became more stubborn as the match went on and it was like playing against a brick wall which is the Halep we want to see!

Watching the match I have to say it was refreshing to see Halep play well, she is one of my favourite players but lacks that consistency at the moment. Everything was working incredibly well, the serve down the T was near perfection and the variety on the forehand creating unheard of angles was impressive but despite a small percentage of shots played on the backhand this impressed me.

I was watching, thinking why isn’t Halep using the backhand more? Was there a lack of trust in the shot? It has been a shot which can be off, it’s a risky shot because of how flat she hits the ball but when she used it (rarely) it worked well.

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You can see the body position she takes up at this point, she is crouched down on the court looking to pick it up and it can be a devastating shot, now look at the image on the right this is where the backhand can break down.

The ball is central and it’s now relying on Halep to be instinctive in a mini-second. She has great instinct but when it comes fast down the middle of the court there isn’t time to adjust the body to hit a clean shot so you can see in her footwork she is on the back foot and just throwing it back into court.

This isn’t bad as she did go onto win the point but it can against better players be a problem.

Overall it was a very good performance, you can see Halep thought so with numerous fist pumps and her game was on point, she took the ball early took time away from Kontaveit and asked her the question, can you break me down? Unfortunately for Anett she had no reply.

Mladenovic 6-3 6-3 Halep – Romanian has work to do, so should she change it up?

Form over ranking any day of the week. Simona Halep has suffered an early ‘shock’ defeat to Kristina Mladenovic but in all honesty it wasn’t a surprise. This was just Halep’s sixth match of the year compared to Mladenovic’ who will next round be playing her 20th and has one a title this year but if we learned anything Halep has big work to do but where and is change the best way forward?

Halep forehand

When Halep is feeling it then this shot is on, she wants to use the forehand as much as possible but I wouldn’t say she is over reliant on it. Returning serve I think she did a good job in the match, she was looking for the forehand a lot and she got it in play but her game lacked any bite.

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You can see from the still that Halep was ready for the forehand. Kiki would go big out-wide or that kick down the T and because the kick sometimes lacked power Halep could run around to hit the forehand and the one in particular she looked for was that forehand down the line into the backhand corner of Mladenovic which she worked well a few times allowing her to step up the court which is what I want to see more of and maybe change her tactics?

More net, less baseline?

Halep is a hustler, we al know how good she is defending but sometimes you can camp too much behind the baseline and it keeps you in rallies for a longer time but there are and have been too many times it delay’s the inevitable. She will continue to come up with stunning winners from impossible angles that is a natural part of her game but maybe a more offensive approach is suited?

Halep can create angles going forward off the backhand and forehand and there were times in the match I thought to myself, go forward and put Mladenovic under pressure. Kiki’s main threat is on the baseline with time, take that time away and it rushes opponents into errors.

This loss can’t just be put down to lack of matches this year because it is a theme we’ve seen a lot of against strong baseline players over the last year or so, so could adapting her game work out better in the long run?