Halep: A champion in waiting?
After crushing Suarez-Navarro, she is now the favourite to lift French title
SIMONA Halep established her credentials to become the newest French Open champion with a blistering 6-1, 6-1 victory over Carla Suarez-Navarro to reach the quarter-finals yesterday.
With no former champions left in the field, pregnant Serena Williams watching from the sidelines and Maria Sharapova not invited to compete, third seed Halep has a golden opportunity to break into the Grand Slam winners’ circle.
Yesterday’s evidence suggested the Romanian may be ready for it.
“I was expecting a tough game against a very good claycourt player,” Halep said. “But I managed to push her back. “I played a good game.” There could be no arguments from any observers or from Suarez-Navarro, who appeared stunned at the outcome.
Before this clash there had been little to suggest it would be so one-sided. Halep led their head-to-head record, but only by 6-5. As soon as the match began, however, its complexion became quickly apparent. Halep settled faster and raced into a 5-0 lead before Suarez-Navarro could register on the scoreboard.
The Spaniard finally held her serve for 5-1 when Halep made a rare forehand error to end a 15-stroke rally, but the Romanian put that blip behind her to seal the set with a backhand pass a game later.
There are few players who strike the ball more crisply than Suarez-Navarro, especially on the backhand side where she usually unfurls a big top-spin shot.
But whether it was the swirling wind which snapped the flags lining the roof of the showcourt, or Halep’s varied pace, the Spaniard repeatedly struggled to find her range.
The one high point for Suarez-Navarro was when she broke back for 1-1 in the second set, but it was all downhill from there. Her timing had gone, then her footwork. At one point she was forced to lunge forward to strike a backhand and accordingly popped it into the net, her foot positioning all wrong.
Halep was toying with her now, switching things up, throwing in drop-shots, followed by lobs. Suarez-Navarro scampered around court to no effect, while many in the crowd shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
On the stroke of the hour Suarez-Navarro was put out of her misery, having made 41 errors. As the two kissed at the net, Halep kindly patted her opponent on the back, and the Spaniard could hardly wait to get out of there.
The 21st seed gathered her racket bag and, after a quick wave to the crowd, left the arena, while Halep took the plaudits and plotted her course. – Reuters TO ME, MY BALL! Romania’s Simona Halep dominated Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in a 6-1, 6-1 display and as the top seed left in the French Open, is now the favourite to become the French Open’s newest champion.