Former French Open runner-up Simona Halep’s start to her 2016 season did not go according to the plan. In her first four tournaments, she suffered opening-round exits thrice one of which was at the Australian Open.
But as the season progressed, the Romanian gained in confidence more and more which was evident from her three title wins at Madrid, Bucharest and the Rogers Cup. Her second half of the season turned out to be quite an impressive one with Halep reaching at least the quarter-finals of all the six tournaments she played.
She achieved the last one of those at the WTA Premier 5 tournament – the Wuhan Open in China – where she is currently playing. Seeded fourth, the World No. 5 has looked in good nick all week and is yet to drop a set. On Thursday, she booked a place in the semi-finals with a comfortable 6-4, 6-2 win over the dangerous eighth seed Madison Keys.
That win was of vital importance as it also sealed her a berth for the third straight year in the prestigious WTA Finals to be played in Singapore from October 23. She is now the third singles player to have qualified for the Year-Ending Championships after Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.
Halep has great memories from her WTA Finals debut
The Romanian has great memories of this event. On her debut in 2014, she stunned the tennis world by inflicting one of the most lopsided defeats on then top-ranked Serena in the round-robin stage. She went on to reach the final that year, losing to the American.
Halep was naturally delighted to have got another opportunity to compete against the very best in the world and admitted that it was one of her goals this year.
“It means a lot to qualify for the WTA Finals Singapore – it was one of my goals this year,” said the 25-year-old on Thursday.
Halep meets Kvitova in Wuhan semis
But for now, Halep has a different challenge at hand. She is set to meet former champion Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals at Wuhan on Friday. Even though the Romanian has a 3-0 head-to-head record over the two-time Wimbledon winner, two of their showdowns have gone the distance.
Besides, Kvitova looks to be resurgent which was thoroughly visible in her marathon three-set win over the World No. 1 Angelique Kerber in the pre-quarter-finals.
In the other semi-final, 10th seed Dominika Cibulkova will square off against two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian had a big comeback win in the quarter-finals, edging past the third seed Agnieszka Radwanska 1-6, 7-6 (9), 6-4 after saving a match point.