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Simona Halep Probably Lost the Best Opportunity She’ll Ever Get

Earlier today, Simona Halep played the second Roland Garros final of her career, which was also her second Grand Slam final. She played it against Jelena Ostapenko, ranked 47th in the world, and for a prize that included not only her first Grand Slam title, but also the first position in the WTA rankings. A number of elements had “conspired” to open up this opportunity for her, which was obviously circumstantial but in the end wouldn’t have made that outcome any less impressive, the achievement itself eventually remaining the only thing firmly written in the history of the sport, and in that of Romanian sports results as well.
Well, she lost. Or, most definitely, Ostapenko won, the statistics making that perfectly clear. Ostapenko’s 54 winners against Halep’s mere eight pretty much tell the story of the match, the fact that she also had 54 unforced errors while Halep only had ten not being enough to allow Halep to outlast her the same way she outlasted Karolina Pliskova in the semifinal. The strategy was the same, making a lot of effort to keep returning the balls but playing it safe, playing more not to lose than to win, letting the opponent thoroughly lead the match, dominate, while waiting for mistakes and opportunities. And it may have seemed like a good idea in theory, with the two seeming to have a similar style and Pliskova being ranked third while Ostapenko was, as I already mentioned, 47th. But Ostapenko was simply the better of the two, those nine additional winners and one less unforced error likely making all the difference. Admittedly, Halep also had six less winners and only four less unforced errors compared to that match.
It sure looked different halfway through the second set, or in fact a third of the way through it. After a tight first set which Halep managed to win in the end, she had started the second one in a great manner, leading 3-0 and having a break point three times in the fourth game, yet then she lost that game and Ostapenko turned things around, ending up leading 4-3 before Halep finally won another game, which would be her last during that set. Still, she then managed to recover at the start of the third set, leading 3-1 and serving, yet everything crashed at that point, or more exactly everything fit into place for Ostapenko, who won the next five games in a row, breaking Simona’s serve three times in the process.

Though she had to defeat Elina Svitolina, ranked sixth, in order to reach the semifinal and then Pliskova, ranked third, to reach the final, quite a number of things had fit just right for Simona Halep this time around, providing this quite unexpected and, I say again, definitely circumstantial opportunity to leap to the top of the rankings on top of winning her first Grand Slam title. It’s hard to believe a similar opportunity will come her way again, and it’s hard to believe another major tournament will be better suited for her to take advantage of any which may in fact arise. This, of course, doesn’t mean she couldn’t climb to the top the hard way at some point, and it’ll be even more of an achievement if she does so, but this truly was an extraordinary opportunity and it was lost, and this will definitely hurt. Remains to be seen in which way she’ll be affected by it and how she’ll respond, once it truly sinks in.

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