2017 WTA Finals Player Profile: Simona Halep

With the WTA Finals just eight days away, VAVEL USA would be providing a player profile for each of the qualifiers on each day as a preview for the prestigious year-end Championships. On the first day, it will be world number one Simona Halep, the reigning Roland Garros finalist who will be making her fourth consecutive appearance in Singapore.

2017 WTA Finals Player Profile: Simona Halep
Simona Halep hugs the flower in the shape of a number one presented to her during an on-court ceremony at the Beijing Open | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

One of the most consistent players in recent years, Simona Halep has successfully qualified for the WTA Finals for the fourth consecutive time. The Romanian has been performing consistently throughout the year, reaching 10 consecutive quarterfinals at one point in time.

2017 has also been special for Halep, despite only winning one title, but she became the first Romanian player to claim the top ranking in WTA, creating history for her country. She will enter the WTA Finals as the top seed, and looks to cap off the year on a high note as the number one ranking will come into play once again in Singapore.

Simona Halep poses along with her runner-up trophy at the WTA Finals back in 2014 | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images AsiaPac
Simona Halep poses along with her runner-up trophy at the WTA Finals back in 2014 | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images AsiaPac

Notable Results to Date

Simona Halep has had an up-and-down season thus far, and she was one win away from the number one ranking four times this year before finally clinching it out of nowhere in Beijing.

It was the clay court season which saw Halep find her groove as she claimed her first title of the year at the Mutua Madrid Open, defeating Kristina Mladenovic in a high-quality final. Her impressive run continued at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, where she went all the way to the final once again. However, she sprained her ankle while having the lead in the Championship match, eventually causing her to fall in three sets to Elina Svitolina.

Simona Halep poses along with her trophy in Madrid | Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe
Simona Halep poses along with her trophy in Madrid | Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe

Roland Garros was the dream tournament for Halep, who came into Paris as the huge favorite to claim the title. After strolling through the opening week, the Romanian came from 3-6, 1-5 down to beat Svitolina in the quarterfinals having saved one match point along the way.

Halep followed it up with an impressive win over Karolina Pliskova, taking away her chance to take the number one ranking, and sending herself into her second Roland Garros final in four years. She went up against surprise finalist Jelena Ostapenko, and the odds were high. If Halep wins, she gets her first Major and the number one ranking. The Romanian did not seem to be affected by the pressure until the eleventh hour when she was leading 6-3, 3-0, AD-40. Jelena Ostapenko started to get her game going, and made the incredible comeback to cap off one of the greatest stories in tennis this year.

Simona Halep with her runner-up trophy at the French Open | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Simona Halep with her runner-up trophy at the French Open | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Halep was one win away from the top spot in both Eastbourne and Wimbledon, but once again failed to take her chances especially at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where she was two points away from the win against Johanna Konta, but fell in three tough sets.

The number one ranking seemed so close, yet so far from the Romanian after a semifinal run in Toronto and a runner-up finish in Cincinnati, which caused her to be just a mere five points away from the top spot in the rankings. It seemed to be all over for Halep after three consecutive defeats, but Beijing was another dream tournament for the two-time Roland Garros finalist.

Having to reach the final in the capital of China to get the number one ranking, Halep played some of her best tennis in her career and exacted revenge over Maria Sharapova, Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko for earlier losses in the year, with the win over the Latvian ultimately gifting her the prestigious spot.

Simona Halep could not believe her dream came true after she won her China Open semifinal match | Photo: Etienne Oliveau/Getty Images AsiaPac
Simona Halep could not believe her dream came true after she won her China Open semifinal match | Photo: Etienne Oliveau/Getty Images AsiaPac

Best WTA Finals result

Halep has successfully qualified for the WTA Finals in four consecutive years, including 2017. Ever since entering the top-10 in 2014, the Romanian has never left that elite batch for a single week, showing how consistent her results were. Halep unexpectedly reached the final on her first appearance in Singapore, outclassing Serena Williams 6-0, 6-2 in the round robin. Looking in top form throughout the tournament, Halep eventually fell to Serena in the final, and thus was unable to claim the title on her debut.

She returned to the tournament the following year, this time as the top seed. However, she was faced with a relatively tough group as she lost two matches to Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova respectively. Another round-robin exit followed in 2016, which saw her fall to world number one Angelique Kerber and an injury hampered her against Dominika Cibulkova, falling in straight sets eventually. Halep will now return to Singapore as the top seed for the second time in three years.

A left knee injury hindered Halep at last year's WTA Finals | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images AsiaPac
A left knee injury hindered Halep at last year's WTA Finals | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images AsiaPac

Results entering Singapore

After a disappointing US Open campaign which saw her exit in the first round to Maria Sharapova in a high-quality encounter, Halep self-admitted that she worked on many aspects of her game during her extended break, especially on her serves. She also hired a new coach, Andrei Pavel along the way. Initially, her tactics did not work out as she was outclassed by Daria Kasatkina in the opening round of the Wuhan Open, winning just a mere three games along the way.

However, she bounced back perfectly at the China Open, exacting revenge for her loss at Flushing Meadows by outplaying an erratic Maria Sharapova in straight sets, defeating Kasatkina with the exact same scoreline which she lost the week before, and finally a long-awaited revenge over Jelena Ostapenko, who took away her golden opportunity to take her first Grand Slam title and the number one ranking in Paris.

This time, Halep was finally able to take the top spot after so many near misses, clinching it with a straight-sets win over the Latvian. However, she was unable to follow up her win as she fell to the red-hot Caroline Garcia in the final, and the win also coincidentally allowed the Frenchwoman to qualify for her first WTA Finals.

Simona Halep with her runner-up trophy in Beijing, posing along with WTA CEO Steve Simon | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Simona Halep with her runner-up trophy in Beijing, posing along with WTA CEO Steve Simon | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Head-to=-Head against the rest of the field

Halep has a fair record against the other qualified players, owning a one-sided 5-1 advantage over Karolina Pliskova but the Romanian has lost her last meetings against Elina Svitolina, Garbine Muguruza, Caroline Wozniacki and Caroline Garcia. Her overall head-to-head record stands at 14-14. Nonetheless, Halep has the ability to trouble the hard-hitting players when her game is firing, especially on the slower courts in Singapore.

How does Halep’s game translate to the surface?

The surface of Singapore’s Centre Court is perfect for a player like Halep, whose aggressive counter-punching skills are world-class and will definitely be able to trouble the hard-hitters on the slow courts. Halep, who reached the final having defeated Serena Williams 6-0, 6-2 along the way back in 2014, already showed that she could play well on these courts, and especially when she is the current world number one, the confidence and court demeanor would prove to be crucial.

Halep, as seen in Beijing, is capable of overpowering the hard-hitters like Ostapenko and Sharapova with her excellent ability to absorb the power and redirect the shots, utilizing the angles on her groundstrokes to do so. If she were to be able to overcome the disappointment of falling short in the final, Halep is definitely one of the favorites here in Singapore.

Simona Halep in action at the 2016 WTA Finals | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac
Simona Halep in action at the 2016 WTA Finals | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac