Revolution can spread quickly at the All England Club. And when the bespectacled world No.126 Saisai Zheng served for the opening set of a second round match, it appeared as though this summer’s grass court revolution was also about to consume Simona Halep.
Three of the top five seeds in the ladies’ singles had been brought down in the opening three days of The Championships, which had only emboldened unseeded players such as Zheng. What was left of the elite had become more vulnerable to further insurrection.
But, in a remarkable turnaround, the Wimbledon contagion stopped on the strings of the top seed and world No.1.
From 3-5 down in the opening set to a Chinese opponent ranked 125 spots below her, Halep flipped this match. It turns out that counter-revolution can spread just as quickly, and from that precarious position in the first set, Halep won 10 successive games, going through 7-5, 6-0.
So while Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina had lost in the opening round on Monday, and Caroline Wozniacki went out in the second round on Wednesday, the Roland-Garros champion extended her winning run at the majors to nine matches.
As the watching Martina Navratilova reflected, Halep didn’t “panic” on No.1 Court when Zheng led 5-3 or when the Chinese served for the set at 5-4.
“I feel good on grass now,” said Halep, and so she should, as she dominated this match once she found a way of dealing with Zheng’s slice.
Winning Roland-Garros and Wimbledon in the same season is hard enough – only seven women have previously done so in the Open Era – but it’s even more challenging to accomplish when you’ve only just had the emotional high of your first Grand Slam title.
Between Paris and London, Halep didn’t play a tournament, but did savour the adulation of thousands of her supporters in Romania. But, within days, she finds herself back in the white heat of Grand Slam competition.
One factor working in Halep’s favour this summer could be the warm weather, as that could make the grass bounce a little higher, giving her a little more time to reach balls and to demonstrate the defensive skills that helped bring her victory in Paris.
Halep, whose best result at the All England Club was reaching the semi-finals in 2014, now plays Su-Wei Hsieh of ChineseTaipei.
Source: Mark Hodgkinson|| Wimbledon