Wimbledon 2018: Simona Halep’s defeat caps week of upsets; wide open draw a great opportunity for Serena Williams

Tennis

A rule of thumb, while serving, is to avoid taking much time between your first and second serves. It helps to stay in the rhythm. It is one of the most universal principles when it comes to playing tennis — just like using one arm to hit a forehand.

But Su-Wei Hsieh isn’t about orthodox. She even hits her forehand strokes with both hands. And in her third round match against World No 1 Simona Halep at Wimbledon – a tournament that values tradition more than anything else — she was willing to break that service rhythm rule too, at match point no less.



She faulted on her first serve, stepped away from the baseline, motioned to the crowd for some encouragement, and then served a slow, almost flat second serve into the middle of the box. Halep, as though she was caught completely off-guard by the lack of any complexity in the serve, hit it straight into the net. With that, the 32-year-old former doubles World No 1 became the first unseeded player to beat the top seed at Wimbledon since 2008, when Ana Ivanovic was beaten by Jie Zheng.

“Okay, now I feel more relaxed,” Hsieh said. “I know she (Halep) is going to fight really hard, so I know I need to try to be stronger than normal mentally. I just want to feel free and enjoy the match,” she added, about how she prepared herself for the tie.


The Taiwanese was right about one thing, Halep did indeed fight hard. The recently crowned French Open champion did not crumble despite losing the last five games of the third set. She fought for every point only to be undone by the crafty and unpredictable strokes Hsieh put across the net.

But Halep’s 6-3, 4-6, 5-7 defeat means that only one (Karolina Pliskova at No 7) of the top-10 seeds is still in the competition in London at the end of three rounds. And just like that the ever-unpredictable women’s draw has been thrown open again. Halep, who earned her first Major at the French Open last month, has been one of the most consistent women’s players over the past two seasons and her battling game means she’s always one of the favourites going into a tournament.



 
This year, four of the top-10 seeds were beaten in the opening round itself, including 2017 US Open champion and French Open finalist Sloane Stephens. Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and defending Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza exited in the second, while Madison Keys, Venus Williams and Halep were ousted in the third.
Pliskova is representing the top-10 brigade but she too has been inconsistent, going the distance in two of her three matches so far.


 

Halep’s defeat, though, puts her in danger of becoming yet another women’s singles player who has underperformed after winning her first Slam. Before her, Wozniacki’s star faded after she won the Australian Open crown in January. The smiling Dane had taken over the World No 1 position after her triumph but has fallen in the second round in the next two Majors.

Then there is Stephens, the US Open champion of last year who struggled for form immediately after winning her home Slam, losing in the first round of the next four tournaments (including the Australian Open). Last year’s champion Muguruza too had faced a severe slump after she won the French Open in 2016.



 
The way Halep was made to earn her maiden Slam though raised hopes of a more tempered run from her. The Romanian had reached the final of the French Open twice (2014 and 2017) and the Australian Open final earlier this year only to lose all three summit clashes. At Roland Garros last month, though, the 26-year-old finally went one better and earned her first Slam.

At Wimbledon she had been hitting well. She even had a match point in the second set against Hsieh, who saved it with a stunning backhand down the line.


 

“Definitely I gave everything I had on the game side,” Halep said. “I was fighting until the end for every ball. 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. I will not find the excuses about this match, she (Hsieh) deserved to win, but still I’m sad about myself today.”

Of the 32 seeds in the women’s draw, only seven remain. Sharapova, the 24th seed and 2004 champion who featured in the competition for the first time in three years, lost the opening round to Russian qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko.


 

But while the field remains open, one can’t help think of how a certain Serena Williams will react. The record 23-time Grand Slam champion, who has won the title at the All England Club seven times, is the 25th seed. The 2016 champion, she returned to Wimbledon after skipping last year’s edition due to pregnancy. The 36-year-old had been rusty upon her return earlier this year, but had started to raise her level when she got back to playing in the Slams, hitting the ball well till she withdrew in the fourth round of the French Open.
At Wimbledon, she is still far from her best, but has been cruising through the opposition. She’s yet to drop a set so far. Increasingly, it looks like an opportunity for Williams to get back to where she had left off on Wimbledon’s lawns.

Shared News | Updated Date: Jul 08, 2018 15:31 PM


 

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