Top seed Halep wastes big lead

World’s No. 1 player chas­tises her­self as tired, un­pro­fes­sional

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - SPORTS - Lon­don

Si­mona Halep was ready for a va­ca­tion. It’s go­ing to start a week ear­lier than she wanted af­ter she gave away a big lead, wasted a match point and lost at Wim­ble­don, join­ing the pro­ces­sion of top women on the way out.

Ranked and seeded No. 1, fresh off win­ning her first Grand Slam ti­tle at the French Open, so sure she had fig­ured out how to over­come the big-mo­ment anx­i­ety that was so prob­lem­atic for so long, Halep called her­self “un­pro­fes­sional” af­ter bow­ing out in the third round at the All Eng­land Club on Sat­ur­day, drop­ping the last five games while be­ing beaten 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 by Hsieh Su-wei of Tai­wan.

“I just was too neg­a­tive to my­self, talk­ing too much. I think be­cause I was tired, be­cause I’m tired, I couldn’t stay focused for ev­ery ball,” Halep said. “Men­tally, I was tired. Also phys­i­cally, I feel tired. My mus­cles are gone.”

For the first time in Wim­ble­don his­tory, none of the top five women’s seeds reached the round of 16. Only one of the top 10 seeds will be in ac­tion in Week 2: No. 7 Karolina Pliskova. The only past cham­pion at the grass-court tour­na­ment left is Ser­ena Williams. Only two other women among the 16 left even own a Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tle: Angelique Ker­ber has two, Je­lena Ostapenko one.

“I mean, I’m not sur­prised any­more,” said 2017 French Open cham­pion Ostapenko, a 6-0, 6-4 win­ner against Vi­talia Di­atchenko, who elim­i­nated five-time ma­jor cham­pion Maria Shara­pova in the first round. “Be­cause ev­ery day, some­thing strange is hap­pen­ing in the draw.”

Far less so in the men’s bracket, although No. 4 seed Alexan­der Zverev did depart Sat­ur­day with a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 loss to Ernests Gul­bis, a Lat­vian ranked 138th who is the first male qual­i­fier since 2012 to reach Wim­ble­don’s fourth round.

In this case, though, Gul­bis al­ready has been a ma­jor semi­fi­nal­ist — he made it that far at the 2014 French Open, but his rank­ing slid be­cause of a se­ries of in­juries — while the up-and-com­ing, 21-year-old Zverev has yet to have that sort of break­through.

Oth­er­wise, Rafael Nadal, No­vak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro all won on a day the English spec­ta­tors were pre­oc­cu­pied with two things: soc­cer and the sun. They fol­lowed along on cell­phones as Eng­land beat Swe­den 2-0 in the World Cup quar­ter­fi­nals in Rus­sia — the All Eng­land Club did not put that other sport on any of the video screens — and used um­brel­las, fans and lo­tion to deal with heat that reached 90 de­grees.

Halep es­sen­tially wilted af­ter lead­ing 5-2 in the third set. She wouldn’t win an­other game.

“I tried,” Hsieh said later, “to hang in there.”

Halep was a point from vic­tory while ahead 5-4 as Hsieh served at 30-40. But the 48th-ranked Hsieh got out of that predica­ment with a back­hand win­ner.

Halep held two break points in the last game, but failed to con­vert ei­ther.

Asked when she thought she could win the match, Hsieh re­sponded, “I don’t feel I can,” then leaned for­ward and laughed heartily.

She plays an un­con­ven­tional brand of ten­nis, re­ly­ing on drop shots re­peat­edly — which, she said, tends to drive prac­tice part­ners “crazy” — and grip­ping her racket with two hands for fore­hands and back­hands.

Getting to the fourth round equals her best run at a ma­jor tour­na­ment in sin­gles, although she does own two Grand Slam dou­bles cham­pi­onships.

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