Halep: A cham­pion in wait­ing?

After crush­ing Suarez-Navarro, she is now the favourite to lift French ti­tle

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - REUTERS

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.

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