Day 5 at the French Open saw some more casualties in the women’s draw. Whilst Iga Swiatek again brought the bakery to court against Alison Riske, this time a first-set bagel, her prospective fourth-round opponent Simona Halep suffered an early loss to Chinese teenager Qinwen Zheng.
— Did Iga Świątek bagel or breadstick somebody? (@didigaswiatek) May 26, 2022
Zheng Qinwen Delivers On Her Talent
Zheng is a great prospect for the game, and for Chinese tennis. Li Na carried the stereotype of Chinese players for so long, diminuitive but with incredible movement and poise. Zheng isn’t this. Zheng is a tall, rangy athlete with the ability to use that range on her serve and groundstrokes to hit with real power. She combines this with a touch in the forecourt which, though basic, is good enough for her to capitalize on her opponents’ court position.
Halep’s Health A Concern
Halep seemed to struggle physically during the second and third sets in this match. From her quotes in press afterwards it transpires that Halep felt that she suffered a panic attack out on court. The Romanian had medical attention to assess her blood pressure but completed the match, despite feeling disoriented and unfocused.
It was clear both during the match and afterward when Halep discussed what happened that the former World #1 was surprised by her attack. There is no doubt that the intensity of the situation and the stress helped to bring on these thoughts and feelings. However, Halep was ahead in the match and, though not performing at her peak, was doing enough to win the match. It must have been a truly unexpected and scary intrusion into Halep’s mind to feel the way that she did at that moment.
The truth is that these afflictions can happen at any time. Strategies can be put in place to help lessen their occurrences but then also how to deal with panic attacks when they do come around. This is why training the mind alongside the body is so crucial for modern athletes of all descriptions. Halep says that this is the first time that she had felt this way, well the positive spin on that is that hopefully now she is able to recognize the signs and symptoms and work out a strategy to mitigate them in the future.
Can Simona Halep Win Another Grand Slam Title?
The opposite view on the panic attack issue is that will this be another hurdle to overcome to achieve at the top of the game again. There were already enough problems in the way, the main one being Iga Swiatek. It is very difficult to see anyone defeating the Pole at the moment, this may change on the grass, but for now, Swiatek remains unbeaten in 30 matches.
Outside of Swiatek, there are a lot of young players coming through to form that band of challengers just underneath the world #1; Paula Badosa, Amanda Anisimova, Cori Gauff, Emma Raducanu, Leylah Fernandez, Elena Rybakina, and, even her conqueror today Zheng Qinwen. All these players are only approaching their peak and are in place to be around for a decade or more. There are players waiting to capitalize on Halep’s fall, if there is going to be one.
Statistically speaking, Halep’s numbers for 2022 stand up very well. In preparation for the tournament, target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”our stats preview observed players’ records across 2022 and their clay-court career and Halep was a clear second best in both aspects, behind Swiatek. So the game is there in general, but the problem is that she has been in and around the very top for a decade and only won two Grand Slam titles in that time.
Of most concern is her record against the best. When compiling the data it is evident that Halep has won only 30% of her recent matches with fellow top 10 players. If she is to ever win another Grand Slam tournament then she has to get over this problem, and soon.
My feelings and analysis tell me the same thing. Simona Halep is unlikely to win another Grand Slam title. Being happy on court is, I suspect, a big motivator as well though, so coming to terms with some mental issues and training for them seriously also has to be a priority for the Romanian.
Main Photo from Getty.