Confidence they say is everything in professional sport and, luckily for Simona Halep, she’s been able to find it at just the right time as she stormed into her third Wimbledon semi-final.
The former world No.1, now No.18 in the rankings, had been struggling with self-belief after enduring a tough 2021 campaign riddled with injuries.
The 30-year-old Romanian, twice a Grand Slam champion, contemplated retirement, parted ways with her long-time coach Darren Cahill, and briefly considered flying solo on Tour.
Flash forward a few months and Halep is floating around the court and spraying winners on the grass as if it’s 2019, when she shocked Serena Williams in the final to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish.
Against the big-hitting Amanda Anisimova on Centre Court, Halep halted a late surge from the American No.20 seed to post a 6-2, 6-4 victory and set up a semi-final with No.17 seed Elena Rybakina.
“Yes, definitely, I’m playing the best tennis (since 2019),” said Halep, who hasn’t dropped a set in her five matches.
“I struggled a lot last year and now I’m just trying to build my confidence back. The tennis is here, so I can just believe. I started to do that and it feels good.”
Halep, who hadn’t competed at Wimbledon since her 2019 triumph, extended her winning streak at the All England Club to 12 matches.
She’s into her first Grand Slam semi-final in two and a half years after claiming her second grass court win over Anisimova within two weeks.
“I’m very emotional right now because it means a lot to be back in the semis,” Halep said on court.
“I played a tough opponent today, she could crush the ball in the end and I didn’t know actually what to do. But I just believed in myself and I said that I have to stay there, strong on my legs – they helped me today – and I believed until the end I can win.”
Halep was the aggressor early on and earned the first break in the third game.
The Romanian was dictating most of the points, moving Anisimova around and finding her angles with precise groundstrokes.
Halep led 5-1 inside 23 minutes, and served out the set comfortably. She wasted no time moving 4-1 ahead in the second set.
Serving for the match at 5-2, Halep faced three break points as Anisimova found some punishing returns. The American converted her third opportunity to claim her first break and stay alive in the contest.
Serving for the match for a second time, Halep again dropped three straight points – Anisimova sending missiles from her side of the court.
But Halep did not surrender this time around, finding her best serving when it mattered the most to move into the final four.
She finished the quarter-final with an impressive 77 per cent success rate on points behind her second serve (winning 17 of 22 points).
“Love-40 down, I hit my serve. I thought if I could put the first one, it’s going to be easier, but also the second one, even if it’s a little bit slower, it worked today. Everything was good when it finished well,” said Halep of that tight final game.
The No.16 seed improved her record in Grand Slam quarter-finals to 9-7 and will be seeking to reach her sixth Grand Slam final when she takes on Kazakhstan’s Rybakina on Thursday.