For the third time in four months we have a brand new world number one! Simona Halep has been one match away from achieving this feat on four previous occasions this year, most recently in the Cincy final against Garbiñe Muguruza. Avenging the French Open final loss to Jelena Ostapenko, Halep won 6-2 6-4 in the China Open semi-finals in one hour and 14 minutes. By virtue of the win, she will rise to the top of the tree in next week’s rankings.
Halep has been turning the tables on recent defeats all over the shop – she scored a first ever win over Maria Sharapova in the third round and then reversed a 2-6 1-6 scoreline against Darla Kasatkina from Wuhan in the quarter-finals. The most impressive aspect of Halep’s game this week has been the serve. There has noticeably been more pop on the first and second serves, and she has been braver in the crux moments. In this match, Halep landed 69% of first serves in and won 75% of points behind it.
Halep was much bolder on return, particularly compared to the Roland Garros final. While she missed a few returns in a pivotal game leading 4-2 in the first set, Halep kept plugging away to eventually break serve in a six deuce game. Even when challenged after losing two straight games from 3-2 to 3-4 in the second set, Halep didn’t let her head drop and was able to rely on a high percentage of first serves. Much like the Sharapova match, Halep enjoyed a classy and confident close to love.
This was Simona’s time. It was lovely to see how much it meant to her at the end. Big congrats, Simona!
Highlights of the Halep-Ostapenko semi-final are linked below.
Looking forward to listening to this.
In the second of the semi-finals, Caroline Garcia continued her sensational run of form with a 6-3 7-5 win over Petra Kvitova. Garcia just seems in the zone right now and unsettled Kvitova with depth. The serve was a key difference between the pair – Garcia landed 72% of first serves in (compared to just 51% for Kvitova), while Kvitova committed 11 double faults including two in her final service game at *5-5 in the second set.
An astonishing effort from Caroline. Superlatives don’t do her last two weeks justice.
Always nice to see.
Sunday’s final in Beijing between Halep and Garcia will be played at not before 16:30pm in Beijing (09:30am UK time). Halep leads the head-to-head, 2-0 and won most recently in Toronto earlier this year, 6-4 6-2. Halep’s achieved the world number one spot and I kind of think this may help her relax for this final.
Garcia is clearly in the form of her life with momentum to power through any physical ailments. I’ve gone against Garcia every round since the last 16 and she just keeps powering through! A win in the final for Garcia would see her overtake Konta into eight place in the Race to Singapore. Suddenly, it’s a realistic possibility.
I’m kind of on the fence with this final. I feel like Halep should be too solid, yet Garcia’s just zoning right now.
There are three tournaments next week in Hong Kong, Tianjin and Linz. The first of the main draws is out for Tianjin including a star-studded match at the top of the drawsheet – Caroline Garcia vs. Maria Sharapova in the first round. I wonder if Caroline will play after three hectic weeks in a row.
Thrilled to see Belinda Bencic and Anna-Lena Friedsam both with wild cards into the main draw of Linz next week. It will be nice to have some live tennis in the evenings!
And finally, I had a nice day catching up with friends in Windsor. A big bake planned for tomorrow!