. Romanian women’s tennis has had a quiet period over the last decade, since the retirements of former top 20 player Ruxandra Dragomir and top 10 player Irina Spirlea. Over the last couple of seasons we’ve seen the emergence of Alexandra Dulghuru on the WTA tour. The feisty Romanian has earned a place within the top 30 rankings and is now one of Romania’s top sports stars. Only 21, Alexandra has a long career ahead of her and has shown her ability to be in the top 20 in 2011, with a consistent display, especially on her favoured clay court surface.
Dulghuru may have competition in remaining Romania’s top ranked female tennis player. Sorana Cirstea has shown she is capable of big wins, but had a disappointing 2010. Perhaps there is no player more exciting from Romania right now than 19 year old Simona Halep.
The diminutive Romanian stands at just 5 foot 6 inches tall, but her aggression on the court more than makes up for her height disadvantage. The girl from Constanta, located on the Black Sea is a former junior world number one in 2008. Simona won the junior Grand Slam event at Roland Garros and has won many matches as a junior over quality opponents who are currently ranked inside the top 100 players in the WTA ranks such as Christina McHale, Ksenia Pervak and even a brilliant win against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the junior Aussie Open. After starting her career in style in 2010, this next year will be the time for Halep to showcase her impressive form on the WTA tour.
Being a former junior world number one can be a lot of pressure to carry on to the WTA tour but Halep showed in Marbella back in April that she was ready to mix it with the games top players. Having come through three tough qualifying matches Simona continued her run into the quarter-finals with impressive wins against the ever consistent Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic and then over fellow countrywoman Cirstea before losing in a closely fought match to the formidable clay courter Flavia Pennetta. Halep impressed many in Spain and a week later qualified for another tournament in Barcelona, falling in 3 sets to Carla-Suarez-Navarro a former French Open quarter-finalist. Halep’s confidence has been growing since.
At the end of April Simona qualified again in Morocco, going on to reach the final with battling displays against the likes of veteran Patty Schnyder, moving her ranking to within striking distance of the world’s top 100. Roland Garros was next and having qualified for her first Grand Slam event, the Romanian was unlucky to draw Sam Stosur in the first round. She lost the match in straight sets but with Stosur going on to reach the final in Paris, Simona knew she was up against a more experienced opponent.
The rest of the year Halep continued to gain experience on the tour playing a mixture of ITF and qualifying events gaining wins over top players such as Timea Bacsinzsky and Elena Baltacha as well as taking former world number one, Jelena Jankovic, to 3 sets at the US Open. During the season, the tiny Romanian teenager has improved her ranking into the world’s top 100 and will start 2011 in a much better position. She will not have to qualify for as many events, saving her energy for the main draws. Simona still has a lot to learn, but she definitely has the ability, power and work ethic to go far in the game. 2011 should be Halep’s break out season, moving well inside the world’s top 50 players. She will prove a difficult opponent to many, especially during the clay court season. Many of the world’s top players will want to avoid her in the early rounds of tournaments. Simona is only going to get stronger and more powerful. She has all the shots and is definitely a potential top 20 player in the coming years.