Halep Comes From Behind To Win at Indian Wells
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
She just wouldn’t stay down, would she? Simona Halep went through the wars with former world number one Jelena Jankovic, but she came up good in the end, coming from behind to claim her biggest title to date.
The World #3 found it difficult in the early goings, as Jankovic came out firing. The Serbian seemed to have engaged 2010 mode, as she raced to a set lead. The backhands of the Serbian were penetrating, and her movement on point as Halep struggled to play herself into the match. The stat of eight winners and 18 unforced errors told the Romanian’s first set story. Unusual stats for the world number three.
The second set was continuing in the same vein, with Jankovic breaking early at 1-1. Halep broke back as she continued to fight, but Jankovic broke again to earn the opportunity to serve for the championship. At this point, the result looked never in doubt. Jankovic was playing well, whilst Halep wasn’t hitting her best form. Despite that, the world number three’s grit and determination shone through as she broke back, and then went on to take the set 7-5. A crushing blow for Jankovic, who was the better player throughout the first two sets.
The third set proceeded to be a mess with both players struggling to hold serve. Jankovic was the first to strike, but the Serb was immediately broken back. Eventually, Halep broke to serve for the match, but like Jankovic in the second set, she failed to take her chance. Fortunately for the Romanian however, she had another opportunity to claim the title, as Jankovic served to stay in the match. The 18th seed hadn’t held serve since the beginning of the set, and she wasn’t about to here. The final game came, and then it went, as Halep’s mental strength and resolve came to the forefront once again. A break to love sealed the match and the title for Simona, as she closed it out 2-6,7-5,6-4 in one of the most dramatic finals in recent memory.
The World No.3 gave the former World No. 1 some major props in her speech at the trophy ceremony.
“First of all I want to congratulate Jelena – you were amazing,” Halep said. “Well done for a great two weeks here. You did a great job, and it was an amazing final. I’m really happy I could win today.”
“This is my biggest title and I’ll never forget it.”
Halep’s previous best was at Premier 5 level in Doha last year and Dubai this year. This was her first Premier Mandatory triumph, and this achievement was capped off by the Romanian jumping to number one in the race rankings, overtaking Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Halep wasn’t at her best, but the world #3 showed tremendous fighting spirit to overcome an inspired Jankovic. Simona didn’t have the greatest start to the tournament, dropping sets in the second and third rounds to Darila Gavrilova and Vavara Lepchenko. The Romanin’s most impressive performance came against in form Karolina Pliskova, as she dispatched the rising Czech in straight sets. After coming from behind to beat Carla Suarez Navarro in the Quarter Finals, the world number three’s fortune began to look good. Serena Williams’ return to Indian Wells was unfortunately ended at the semi-final stage as the world number one was forced to withdraw with a knee injury.
Jelena Jankovic can be proud of her efforts, but unfortunately despite being the better player throughout, she couldn’t find enough to overcome Halep on this this occasion. The Serb took advantage of the bottom half of the draw falling apart, as Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic and Genie Bouchard’s tournaments all ended earlier than most expected. Despite the top seeds falling, the road to the final wasn’t easy for Jankovic, as she had to overcome rising stars Madison Keys, and Belinda Bencic before coming from behind to beat an in form Sabine Lisicki. The German shocked everyone by making the semi-finals of an event she had previously struggled hugely in, but her dream run eventually came to an end at the hands of Jelena. Still, she wasn’t expected to even make it this far, so Jankovic can certainly look at this tournament as a confidence booster despite what happened in the final. Her efforts are even more miraculous given she was injured prior to the tournament.
“I was limping three days before the tournament started,” Jankovic said. “I was actually in doubt if I could even play. When I came to these courts, on the first day I hadn’t hit a ball for 10 days. I was hitting, but I was standing. I was not moving.” She added, “But I was hitting the ball so great without any practice. I had a good feeling. I felt so great. I was just so happy to be out there again. But I didn’t think I would make the finals after not preparing.”
The doubles was won by Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza. The top seeds overcame second seeded Russian pair, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-3,6-4.