Halep targets power to continue WTA ascent
SINGAPORE (AP) — Simona Halep has two entries in her off-season calendar: party with friends, and pump some iron.
The Romanian was comprehensively beaten 6-3, 6-0 by Serena Williams in Sunday’s championship match at the WTA Finals and left Singapore with mixed feelings: disappointment at the loss yet satisfaction with a season which elevated her firmly into the elite of the women’s game.
In May last year, Halep was ranked No. 67 and the former top-ranked junior was struggling to transition into the power game at the highest level. Now she is ranked No. 4, having completed a week in which she comprehensively beat Williams — in the group stage — Eugenie Bouchard and Agnieszka Radwanska, losing just 11 games in the process.
She may have played well below her best Sunday, but the party with friends and family back in Romania is still planned.
“Yeah, I will do,” Halep said. “I don’t forget that I beat Serena this week.
“It wasn’t my best day, but I’m still happy and I’m still enjoying this moment because it’s a good moment for me. I’m still young. So I continue my way, my hard work every day to go to be a champion one day. But we will see if it will happen.”
The contrast between the game style of Halep and Williams was stark in the final. Halep likes to take her ground strokes early, using cross-court angles to keep her opponents running and off balance, but she had no opportunity to do that against Williams. Her American opponent used punishing ground strokes, mixed in with a lot of play at the net, to keep Halep on the back foot.
The power deficit against the likes of Williams, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova is the main area Halep needs to address to challenge for Grand Slam titles.
“Maybe to work more in the gym to be stronger, to have more power,” was Halep’s response when asked for her off-season priorities.
“I improved a lot this year, so I’m happy with my game. Still, I have to work more on the shots, on the serve and the return also, because the return is very important to me.”
Halep made the French Open final as well as Sunday’s title decider, but was uncertain if the next step was going to come quickly.
“My dream is to win a Grand Slam, but I don’t know if I can do next year,” Halep said. “I want to improve more in my game and then we will see what is going to happen. I want to remain in top 10 next year.”