Rest and relaxing with family and friends back in Romania was the remedy for Simona Halep to unwind. It wasn’t long though that she packed and landed in Toronto for the Rogers Cup. She might have taken a ‘let’s see’ approach hoping that her game wasn’t too sluggish to create wins and be victorious.
She wasn’t. Jennifer Brady, a spunky former UCLA college star was Halep’s first opponent. She had been known to pull out a few victories and surprise wins. She dismantled Greece’s Maria Sakkari at the Nottingham, Danielle Collins in Prague and even Caroline Garcia at Indian Wells.
She’s unpredictably easy at times then again difficult to diffuse at others. Halep’s first scare was when Brady played clever tennis and won the opening set 6-4. The idea of going down quick wasn’t on Halep’s agenda and despite how many gliding speeding balls Brady blasted to her, Halep stayed in tune.
She was able to pick up her rhythm leveling the second set to 2-all. Brady clicked her game into better gear, passing Halep, opening up the court and going down the lines to soon lead 6-5 giving the Romanian a worried look and shaky strategies.
Halep was spirited, grabbed the set 7-5 displaying clever tactics and precision shots. Could she continue on this rampage or would she falter to the college-trained Jen Brady? The decider was tight. Halep passed her opponent often and Brady smashed balls but a tiebreak was on the menu.
The Romanian was on a roll and had the winning shots in the clinch to win the tiebreak and the match 4-6, 7-5, 7-6. “I felt today…It was tough…my body’s sore. I’m trying to touch my highest level,” Halep smiled and gave a sigh of relief for the end of a turbulent round.
The Romanian’s next opponent was Svetlana Kuznetsova, a Russian who was once top ranked but through years and injuries now is in the top 90s. She had just come to the Rogers Cup, held up by an immigration visa, she won her first round with Xiyu Wang with not too difficult a result.
But the last time Halep and she met was three years ago at the Rogers Cup with Halep winning. Kuznetsova knew she’d have to bring her ‘A’ game being that she might have been a bit rusty and Halep had a 5-3 head to head on their meets.
Anything is possible but the Romanian went up right away 3-0 before the Russian could put a game on the scoreboard. Kuznetsova did pick up one more game in the open set, but it was nearly all-Halep as she won it 6-2. The second set Halep held the game on her racket leading 5-0 allowing Kuznetsova only one game to win the set 6-1.
Afterwards, the Romanian showed obvious weariness but admitted that “It was much better than yesterday. The feeling of the ball was better…Usually, I like to play on the wind and I feel I had a good touch on the ball,” Halep said smiling.
The rounds were getting more difficult as Halep met up with the Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova. She had just scored her first career victory over a Top 10, Sloane Stephens this week. She had defeated Jelena Ostapenko too and planned on doing the same to Halep.
Bouzkova tried and won the first set 6-4. The Czech had all the answers to the rallies and it would continue to be a slugfest. But during the break, Halep looked worried. She sat, took off her sock, called for a trainer and murmured something about ‘pain’
It seems like in a flash Bouzkova’s chances to win and Halep’s to make a comeback were over. Halep said she couldn’t go on due to a lower left leg injury. She had mentioned on feeling the discomforted Achilles issue the first match out.
Halep had said to the WTA tennis media that “Today I felt it more, so that’s why I decided to retire.” Bouzkova had an easy but discontented win to move into the semifinal. But it played out she’d be opposite Serena Williams.
She was told this on the court after the Halep retirement and she smiled and admitted she’ll be ready. The path Bouzkova has travelled so far seems positive for her doing well with her matchup with Serena Williams, but Halep’s condition is at stake now.
Rest, recovery, treatments are the recipe again for the Romanian to heal as players round out the last grand slam of the year in a few weeks with the U.S. Open in Flushing.