Simona Halep is a Romanian tennis player whose playing style and stature have often drawn comparisons with Justine Henin. Despite her relatively short height of 5'6", Halep has stood toe-to-toe with the biggest hitters of her time and has emerged as one of the most successful players of this decade.
Halep has an army of dedicated fans wherever she goes, and she is a celebrated icon all over the world but particularly in her home country of Romania, which is not known for producing a lot of tennis champions.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams:
Australian Open: Runner-up (2018)
French Open: Champion (2018)
Wimbledon: Semifinalist (2014)
US Open: Semifinalist (2015)
Highest Ranking: No. 1
Style of play
Halep is often described as an aggressive counterpuncher who uses her movement and racquet head speed to turn rallies in her favor.
Her game is not serve-centric; instead, Halep relies on neutralizing points with her return and then moving the ball around the court with deft touches. She has a versatile backhand that she hits with equal confidence both crosscourt and down the line, and her forehand has plenty of topspin that is especially effective on clay.
Halep doesn't approach the net a lot, but can volley competently when the need arises. She also brings out the drop shot and lob every once in a while to keep her opponents guessing.
Strengths and weaknesses
Halep's greatest asset is her ability to blend offense and defense seamlessly. Her ability to transition from a precarious position to one of authority, by smartly redirecting her opponent's pace and angling the ball away from them, is second to none.
Halep's backhand is one of the best in the world, both while attacking and defending. Her anticipation and foot speed are also important weapons in her arsenal, as she repeatedly extends points and ultimately elicits errors from the opponent.
Halep's height and relative lack of power are the two most obvious shortcomings of her game. Her serve often sits up because it doesn't come down from a great height, and that leads to it being broken numerous times every match.
With her groundstrokes, Halep is sometimes unable to generate the flat power required to end points quickly. That results in her getting involved in a few too many long drawn out matches, which in turn hurt her chances towards the latter stages of big tournaments.
Halep was born in Constanta, Romania, and she moved to Bucharest in 2007. Her father Stere Halep was a professional football player, who represented Romanian club AS Sageata Stejaru in his prime. Justine Henin was Halep's idol growing up, which probably explains the similarities in the playing styles of the two players.
Halep was a highly regarded youngster right from the beginning, and her win at the 2008 Roland Garros junior championship seemed like confirmation of her future success. The following year saw her make a huge personal sacrifice, as she underwent breast reduction surgery in order to improve her movement on the court.
The sacrifices, determination and willingness to improve have always set Halep apart from the rest, and her recent results have justified her talent. Her rise through the WTA hierarchy has been quiet and steady but unmistakable, and today she is not only a Grand Slam champion but also a fine ambassador for the sport.
Halep is still young enough, and agile enough, to be a top player for many years to come.