On a sporadic second day of play at the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, Jana Cepelova’s victory over third seed Simona Halep was one of the more sentimental upsets of the season, one that turned the draw upside down.
Arriving at Wimbledon ranked number 106 in the world, little was expected of Cepelova and many did not believe the 22-year-old had the plethora of shots and game to trouble a solid-hitting Halep off the ground.
However, Cepelova proved many of her doubters wrong, staying with the world number three for the majority of the set after exchanging breaks of serve. But Halep, a semi finalist 12 months ago, looked to have finally found her groove on the lush grass courts of SW19 after a slow start, that saw her hit five double faults in three service games. Despite the slow start, the third seed clinched a decisive break at 5-5 before serving out the opening set with an ace.
The second set was a similar affair with both women staying in touch with each other after trading breaks but, it was Cepelova who surged ahead when she saw a chink in her Romanian counterpart’s armour, breaking at the first time of asking to mount a 5-3 lead. Despite failing to serve out the second set, the Slovak capitalized on another poor service game from Halep to break at love, taking the second frame 6-4 and levelling the match at a set apiece.
Now playing more within herself, Cepelova grabbed an early break of serve before later consolidating it to open up a 4-1 lead, much to the surprise of the spectators on No. 1 Court. Showing her grit and determination on a day where her solid game seemed to have abandoned her, Halep got the break back in a matter of minutes to close the gap to 4-3. Unfortunately for the then-world number three, it was a case of too little, too late as Cepelova broke at love once more and had the chance to serve for the upset. In less than 90 seconds, the world number 106 found herself down 0-40 but impressively, she won five points in a row to complete the upset. As she raised her arms in triumph, Cepelova had done it! She had scored the second biggest win of her career with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over world number three Simona Halep.
Cepelova’s biggest win in terms of rankings was over world number one Serena Williams at the last year’s Family Circle Cup, where she took out the American in straight sets.
To make things even more interesting, Cepelova had won just one main draw tour-level match all season prior to her shock triumph over Halep. A prominent figure on the ITF Professional Circuit, the 22-year-old is still trying to make a major breakthrough in the big leagues - something so many WTA Rising Stars are trying to do as we speak.
"Beating Serena definitely gave me the confidence that I could beat Top 10 players," she said. "I've had some tough moments this year, but everything is fine now. I'm just really proud."
A disappointed but rather reflective Halep had quite a bit to say during her post-match press conference.
"To be honest, I have no reaction because, like I said at my first press conference on the weekend, I had no expectations for this tournament. And now here I am," she said. "I knew that it would be a difficult tournament for me, but yeah, I didn't expect to lose in the first round. But she played good tennis today. She was fighting until the end, and she was playing aggressively when she could."
"Life is not always good, but I have enough power to go ahead and just think about what I have to do to do better, and just get the good feeling back on court during my matches. I just have to work hard."