Following a triumph at the Melbourne Summer Set 1, Simona Halep is in red-hot form as she sets her sights on the 2022 Australian Open.
It may not be the highest-profile tournament on Tour, but performing well at the WTA 250 Melbourne warm-up event may indicate a repeated success at the following Australian Open. Familiarizing oneself with a similar atmosphere, crowds, and court surfaces prior to a Grand Slam is a recipe for success, as performing in similar conditions later won’t be a difficult transition. Simona Halep has just secured the Melbourne Summer Set 1 and is now fixated on continuing her awesome results through to the big stage at the Aussie Open.
Returning to former glory?
Despite ending the 2019 season with a Wimbledon title to her name, things quickly took a turn for the worst for Simona Halep, who had sustained a series of injuries throughout 2020 and 2021, causing several unprecedented withdrawals and a loss in performance. With her last WTA title victory being the 2020 Italian Open, Halep’s triumph at the Melbourne Summer Set this year represents her first title in 16 months and the 23rd in her career. The Romanian star had ended every year since 2014 in the Top 5 until 2021, when her year-end ranking was No.20. There’s no doubt her unfortunate streak of injuries has contributed to this downfall in the rankings.
Every season brings new opportunities and fresh motivation, and as the 2022 Australian summer of tennis kicks off, so does Simona Halep’s comeback to her former glory. En route to the trophy, the former world No.1 only dropped one set in the eleven sets she played, making a statement that could signify a resurgence in her form that she will carry on to the Australian Open. The question now comes down to this: How does Simona Halep weigh up against her competitors and the Grand Slam tournament “favourites” moving forward?
Australian Open 2022: How Simona Halep weighs up against the rest
There’s no doubt that one of the big contenders for the 2022 Australian Open title will be defending champion Naomi Osaka. However, her recent withdrawal from the Melbourne Summer Set may indicate some underlying issues that could prove detrimental later on. In the case that Osaka is in top form as she was at the 2021 Aussie Open, then she will certainly be one of the favourites.
In Halep’s defence, she has bested Osaka in four out of five matches throughout their head-to-head, two of which were at Grand Slam tournaments. In addition to having an edge over Osaka on the big stage, Halep also bested the young Japanese at the Miami Open as well as the Rome Masters, securing the win at their last encounter. Of course, several years have passed since these two contenders did battle, so it would be interesting to see who has the edge this time.
Simona Halep’s rivalry with Naomi Osaka is a little unique in that their last two matches square up at one-all, with each of them besting the other in straight while delivering bagels in their respective wins. These stats make it all the more unpredictable as to who would win if they were to go up against one another now, as the spectrum of results between the two vary between tight three-setters and straight-set steam rolls.
Ash Barty and Garbine Muguruza are among other tournament favourites for this year’s Australian Open singles title, but Simona Halep is no stranger to these Top 5 players either. In fact, Halep currently has an edge over Barty in their head-to-head, having bested the world No.1 on three different occasions. Surprisingly, the two have never met at a Grand Slam, so we can’t conclude just yet whether Halep will continue to have that edge, particularly when you consider she lost to Barty in their most recent encounter in Adelaide last year, though this match was classed as an exhibition only.
World No.3 Garbine Muguruza has had quite a rollercoaster of results against Halep, besting the Romanian four times in their seven encounters. However, the fact of the matter is that Simona Halep has never beaten Muguruza on hard court, as all her wins came from clay. Nevertheless, she has shown to contend well with the Spaniard on the big stage, bringing their most recent Aussie Open encounter in 2020 to two tight sets to give Garbine a run for her money.
Final thoughts ahead of the 2022 Australian Open
It’s a tough road ahead no matter who you are in the WTA, because as it has been for many years now, the women’s tennis Tour is always welcoming a new Grand Slam champion into the mix. In a competition that is always changing and ever evolving, standing out from the crowd in the WTA is as difficult as ever, and often requires more than winning a single Grand Slam title. Regardless of these conditions, Simona Halep is one of the few women who have made a huge name for herself, albeit having once been ranked at the top for many consecutive weeks as well as having more than one major title to her name. As always, this year’s Australian Open women’s champion is anyone’s guess, but rooting for Halep might be the way to go!