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London | Halep rises to second place in Race to Shenzen

It has been quite a gig for Simona Halep who, as a result of becoming the latest Wimbledon singles champion, has made her way back into the Top 5 at World No 4, and risen to 2nd place in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen for the year-end WTA Championships.

I want to win any medal in the Olympics to fulfill everything I have done in tennis. Simona Halep

Winning at SW19 was the former World No 1’s first title of the season following runner-up finishes in Doha and Madrid, and consequently she leaps 5 places to land just behind Race leader and Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty, whom Halep now trails by 458 points.

Barty and Halep are the only players to have reached the second week at every Grand Slam in 2019 so far.

Elsewhere, strong Wimbledon showings have resulted in a number of players threatening the edges of the Race Top 8.

Quarter-finalist Johanna Konta backed up her Roland Garros semi-final run to make the last 8 of consecutive majors for the first time, and climbs 2 places to No 8, displacing her Paris conqueror Marketa Vondrousova from the elite 8.

Elina Svitolina, who broke new ground by reaching her maiden Grand Slam semi-final, rises 3 places to enter the Top 10 at No 10, pushing Angelique Kerber, whose Wimbledon title defence was ended in the second round by Lauren Davis, down to No 11.

Looming just behind them is 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, whose runner-up finish at Wimbledon, her first final of the season, has resulted in a thirty-spot leap to land at No 12.

There is also a dramatic ascent for semi-finalist Barbora Strycova, whose career-best Grand Slam showing has led to a 36-spot vault up to No 19.

Elise Mertens, whose 4th-round run meant that the Belgian has now reached the second week of every major, also enters the Top 20, climbing 4 places to No 20.


Romanian fans cheer as the Wimbledon champion arrives back home

For Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, the accolades have kept pouring in.

The Romanian’s triumphant homecoming this week was bolstered even further by an indication that she will be her country’s flag-bearer at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo and, if that long-held dream wasn’t enough, the Romanian Presidential Administration announced that she will receive the highest state distinction of the country, the Order of the Romanian Star [Steaua României].

Halep is determined to accomplish all the items on her career bucket list.

Having also won the French Open in 2018, others might well put a further Grand Slam title on their list, but the 27-year-old wants to win a medal for her country.

“An Olympic medal,” she said. “I said that at the beginning of the year and I still keep it.

“I want to win any medal in the Olympics to fulfill everything I have done in tennis.

“It is a chance to play for my country. I have always loved to do that, playing in all the Fed Cup matches.

“The disappointment from this year [when Romania lost to France in the Fed Cup semi-finals] really hurt me, so to play well to get a medal, it would be a dream.”


IIon Tiriac welcomes Simona Halep at Henry Coanda International Airport in Bucharest

Getty Images

At a reception held at Bucharest’s Henri Coanda Airport, Halep said that she had asked Mihai Covaliu, the President of the Romanian Olympic Committee, about the possibility of carrying the national flag in Tokyo, Covaliu agreed.

“It was recorded!” joked Halep, who went on to call an Olympic medal as her ‘main objective’ now.

The Romanian presidential administration also announced yesterday that Halep will be awarded the Order of the Star of Romania, stating in a press release: “As a result of the extraordinary performance at the Wimbledon tennis tournament and as a sign of recognition and appreciation for the whole activity, the President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, has decided to award the highest award of the Romanian State, the National Order Steaua României in the Rank of the Knight, to the tennis player Simona Halep.

“Through her dedication, devotion and professionalism, confirmed both on the tennis court and out of the court, Simona Halep has promoted our country’s name all over the world. Simona Halep is a model for the younger generation, and her involvement in popularising tennis among children is a huge gain for the Romanian sports.”

Since first breaking the Top 5 in March 2014, Halep has maintained that status almost continuously.

She dipped out of it for just 14 weeks in total over the past half-decade, 8 in 2016, 1 in 2017 and 5 this year following the loss of her 2018 Roland Garros champion’s points, and each time bounced back in style.
The former World No 1’s accomplishment was a masterclass in raising her level at the business end of a major.

Halep began the tournament with 2 shaky matches, needing to retrieve a 2-5 second-set deficit against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and dropping the second set to compatriot Mihaela Buzarnescu, but a 3rd-round rout of 2-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and a 4th-round dismissal of 15-year-old prodigy Coco Gauff set the scene for a ruthless second week.

From 1-4 down in the first set against previous nemesis Zhang Shuai, Halep buckled down, and won 36 of her final 47 games of Wimbledon, saving her best performances for the first 2 Top 10 players she faced, Elina Svitolina in the semi-final and Serena Williams in the final.

The first Romanian to win Wimbledon, Halep also becomes the 10th active multiple-Slam winner, equalling the 2 held by Azarenka, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Petra Kvitova, Garbiñe Muguruza and Naomi Osaka, with only Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber having won more.




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