At the end of 2013 when the WTA was handing out its annual awards they named Simona Halep, a little known Romanian as its Most Improved Player. Journalists, bloggers and drive by fans, not knowing who she was, were in high dudgeon as to the WTA’s reasoning for making this little nobody its Most Improved Player. They felt that this title should have gone to the American Sloane Stephens. Their reason for this is that Stephens had performed better on the biggest stages of the sport, i.e. the Grand Slams, something Halep had not done. All Halep had done was win 6 titles. They were not big titles, but they were titles.
In an interview with Tennis Channel, Stephens indicated that Halep had done well in the “small tournaments”, implying that she Stephens had done well on the bigger stages. That was all true, but as we say in the Caribbean, you have to learn to creep before you can walk. At the time of that interview, Stephens was on the cusp of the top 10 (ranked No. 11).
Since that time Halep has made slow but steady progress up the rankings. From winning 6 small tournaments, she eventually made the quarterfinal of her first Slam (Australian Open 2014), the semifinal of her first Slam (Wimbledon 2014) and her first final (French Open 2014). In addition to those accomplishments, she has been racking up titles as if she is ticking off a to do list of accomplishments.
.@Simona_Halep wins 11th career #WTA title & 3rd of 2015 at @BNPParibasOpen--> http://t.co/1mtURDgk88 #tennis pic.twitter.com/2bW6Cm29jv
— WTA (@WTA) March 22, 2015
2 weeks ago she hoisted the biggest trophy of her career winning the Dubai Duty Free title (Premier). She has now eclipsed that accomplishment by winning the biggest title of her career, the BNP Paribas Open trophy (Premier Mandatory), a title just below that of a Grand Slam, by outlasting former champion Jelena Jankovic in a 3 set marathon. Halep has now won a title at every level of the WTA Tour and there is no doubt that she and her team are now focused on bringing this renewed focus and energy to the Grand Slam stage. For the first time in a long while I can’t wait for the clay season to start.
This and That
Louise Thomas has an amazing piece in Grantland on Serena’s return and ultimate withdrawal from the BNP Paribas Open trophy. In case you have been living under a rock, Serena Williams, after a 14 year boycott returned to Indian Wells but had to withdraw from her semifinal match against Simona Halep. As they did in 2001, the Tournament chose not to inform fans that there would be no second women's semifinal played due to a withdrawal. In this instance however, the court announcer Andrew Krasny took to the court with Serena Williams to announce that Serena would not be playing due to an injury.
Video of Serena Williams explaining Indian Wells withdrawal to crowd https://t.co/PdaUalHZPT
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) March 21, 2015
While there were many who mentioned how classy Andrew Krasny dealt with the situation, my thinking is that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Frankly, why could Serena not have walked out on court, with the announcer in tow, to let the fans know that she would not be playing tonight due to an injury. I can understand the disappointment, but am I the only one missing how hard Mr. Krasny had to work to set up this moment? I don't want to beat a dead horse, but it is as clear as day that if Mr. Krazny had not been present, the situation could have turned ugly pretty quickly. The fact that there were reporters on the ground who heard boos just goes to show that nothing much has changed where this tournament is concerned.
It was reported a few days later that Serena has had cortisone shots in her knee to aid her in playing the Sony Open or Miami Open or whatever it is called these days.
Sloane Stephens has either got her mojo back or she does what she does best and get it up for the top players. I am hoping that it is the former.
Master Ace has done a quick preview of the Miami Open draw and his predictions are below:
QF 1: S Williams vs Muguruza
QF 2: Azarenka vs Stephens
QF 3: Suarez Navarro vs V Williams
QF 4: Zahlavova Strycova vs Sharapova
SF 1: S Williams vs Azarenka
SF 2: V Williams vs Sharapova
F: S Williams vs Sharapova
W: S Williams