Simona Halep was trying to extract the positives.
She had just lost to Johanna Konta on a packed Centre Court; she had watched a match she was controlling wrenched from her racquet strings and as it disappeared over the horizon, it took with it her chance of taking over as the new world No.1. And now she was looking for the upside.
In order to stop her achieving her dreams – the No.1 rankings this week, the chance to win the French Open last month – her opponents have had to play out of their skin.
Konta played hard and strong in the quarter-final; she played calm and controlled. And still she was two points away from defeat in the second set tie-break. Britain’s No.1 had to drag something remarkable from her kitbag to turn the match around and, unfortunately for Halep, as Konta rummaged around in that stash of winners and tactics, she found what she was looking for.
So, then, was it some comfort that her rivals had to play at their absolute best to beat her?
“It’s good that maybe she played the best match today, the best tennis,” Halep said thoughtfully. “It’s a good thing. Maybe I can take from here also a positive that all the players that are beating me are playing maybe the best tennis.
“But doesn’t make me happier. I’m just taking as it is and go ahead. I have no way to go back.”
That did not sound too promising but still Halep was looking on the bright side.
She had been ahead in the French Open final, too, until Jelena Ostapenko and her bludgeoning ground strokes stopped her in her tracks. Some players might have locked themselves away after that, tried to shut out the world until they had repaired the damage to their confidence and pride. But not Halep. She got straight back to work and was looking good here until she faced Konta.
To be fair, she still looked good against Konta. It was just that Konta looked a little better. That was, she thought, a positive in itself.
“That I played so well after disappointing moment in French Open,” she said, listing the good points. “I was able again to fight till the end. I played well, so my game is there. I’ve been okay. These are the positives. I cannot complain about anything because she played well today, and she got the match, she won the match.”
Her views on Konta were pretty positive, too. Usually, when a player is asked if their conqueror can win the title or the next match, the stock response is to claim that they do not know and, to be frank, do not really care. But when asked to assess Konta’s chances against Venus Williams on Thursday, Halep waxed lyrical.
“I think she can win,” Halep said. “She’s a very strong player. She’s playing well. She has the crowd, as well. I think she’s able to win tomorrow or next round.
“I think today was great tennis. Both of us played a good level. I was very close, again. In the tiebreak maybe I could serve better and stronger a little bit. Then in the third set, the serve game that I lost was a little bit tough to still believe that I can break her because she was serving pretty well.
“I think everything was okay. Many positives from this match. And she played really well, so she deserves to win.”
Not even the loud and partisan crowd was going to get Halep down. They had cheered long and heartily when Konta hit a winner and they had gasped and groaned when she missed the mark. When Konta took the second set, they almost brought the house down with their celebrations. But Halep was not be fazed.
“[They were] very nice and very fair,” she said, magnanimously. “I think everywhere, in every country, if you are playing with someone from that country, is the same. The crowd has to be loud for the opponent because is from the country. I said before the match that I have no problems with that. Always when I play in my home country, is the same. We have to take it.”
And with that, Halep was off to prepare for another crack at glory in another town in another country. She had been beaten but she was certainly not defeated.
Source: Alix Ramsay| Wimbledon