Simona Halep's top 10 streak might have come to an end, but her journey has been an emblem of consistency & perseverance

Simona Halep holding onto the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen after winning Roland Garros in 2018
Simona Halep holding onto the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen after winning Roland Garros in 2018

It has taken a pandemic, a revamped ranking system, and a mid-season calf injury to push Simona Halep out of the WTA top 10. It was a territory she had enjoyed a commanding presence in for over seven years, but the spell has finally been broken.

During these seven years, Halep has transitioned from a shy newcomer to a tour veteran who has achieved everything she dreamt of. While her company in the top 10 constantly changed over time, the Romanian remained steady.

Simona Halep's passion for the sport drove her to become one of the most consistent forces in the game and cement her place amidst the best players on tour.

The 29-year-old's journey to the pinnacle first gained momentum in 2013, a season that was nothing short of historic. Remarkably, she became the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1986 to win her first six career titles in the same calendar year.

The run catapulted Halep to a ranking of No. 11 in the world at the end of the season, after having begun the year at No. 45.

A chart by the WTA tour website marking the seven-year anniversary of Simona Halep's entry into the top 10
A chart by the WTA tour website marking the seven-year anniversary of Simona Halep's entry into the top 10

Come 2014, Simona Halep advanced to her maiden Major quarterfinal - at the Australian Open - which propelled her into the top 10 of the rankings. The rest, as they say, is history.

But in this case it literally is. Halep's streak of 373 consecutive weeks inside the top 10 ranks eighth on the all-time list. She is also the only active player to stand amongst the leading 10 women in that category, which is headed by legends like Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

Although these numbers might reflect a very rosy picture, the reality has been far from it. Simona Halep has had to face some very challenging questions throughout the course of her career. But her rise to the status of a champion was fueled by the hunger to achieve the ultimate prize - a Grand Slam title.

Simona Halep made her maiden Slam final in 2014, at Roland Garros, where she faced the fierce Maria Sharapova (who was bidding for her fifth Major title). The then 22-year-old Halep was fearless in her approach though, and she took the experienced Russian to a tight third set.

Sharapova eventually scooped out a win, but Halep had firmly announced herself to the tennis world.

Simona Halep at Roland Garros 2014
Simona Halep at Roland Garros 2014

Over the next couple of years, Simona Halep built compelling rivalries with the likes of Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanka, Caroline Wozniacki and Karolina Pliskova. The Romanian's exceptional footwork, shot tolerance and anticipation made her one of the toughest opponents to play against.

In 2016, Darren Cahill, a former coach to Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, joined Halep's team. The duo embarked on a journey focusing on both the technical and mental aspects of the game, which ultimately made Halep the best version of herself.

In a recent interview with Chris Evert, the Romanian opened up about how Cahill was a significant factor in bringing out the champion in her. She also talked about how his positive attitude helped her overcome her inherently negative mindset.

"He was the part I need to complete myself in order to become a complete champion," Halep admitted. "The chemistry with him is really good on court and off court. He turned all the negativites I had and turned them into positives. He also convinced me that I needed help of a psychologist to put me in the right place with my thoughts on the court."

With therapy and a supportive team backing her up, Simona Halep was determined to make that positive approach a core part of her game. But her resolve was put to the test time and again.

Questions about the Romanian's mental fortitude surfaced in the wake of the 2017 Roland Garros final, which she lost after being a set and a break up against Jelena Ostapenko. The self-doubt and public criticism that came after the loss were certainly detrimental to Halep's efforts towards imbibing a positive mindset.

The 29-year-old's perseverance bore fruit a few months later, at the 2017 China Open. Ironically, by beating both Maria Sharapova and Jelena Ostapenko in Beijing, Simona Halep ascented to the World No. 1 position for the first time in her career.

Now all that remained was a Major title, which was still missing from her CV.

Simona Halep at the 2018 Australian Open
Simona Halep at the 2018 Australian Open

But again, the tennis lords said "not yet". Simona Halep reached the third Grand Slam final of her career at the 2018 Australian Open. She played multiple marathon matches and even sustained an ankle injury in the first round, making it arguably the most physically demanding tournament of her career.

Halep was denied the title yet again, this time by Caroline Wozniacki in a three-set thriller. But despite the loss, the Romanian was able to carry a far more optimistic outlook going forward.

Back on her favorite surface at Roland Garros a few months later, another opportunity awaited her in the final. Down a set and a break against Sloane Stephens, Halep's experience and conviction led her to the most rewarding victory of her career.

Simona Halep showing the Venus Rosewater Dish on the balcony of the Wimbledon Centre Court
Simona Halep showing the Venus Rosewater Dish on the balcony of the Wimbledon Centre Court

She achieved a similar feat in 2019 at Wimbledon, realizing a childhood dream and becoming the first Wimbledon champion from her country. The final against 23-time Major winner Serena Williams was a near-perfect match from Simona Halep, who conceded just three unforced errors. It was a stat for the record and the history books.

"I didn’t say I don't want more. I said that the pressure of doing something special, it's off. Now what comes, comes as a bonus," Halep said after winning Wimbledon.

In his poem Invictus, William Ernest Henley wrote: "And yet the menace of the years, finds, and shall find me, unafraid."

These words fit Simona Halep's journey over the past seven years perfectly. After surviving injuries, excruciating losses and high-pressure matches, the Constanta-born has evolved herself to become a champion in every sense of the word.

Simona Halep's extraordinary top 10 streak came to an end on 8 August 2021. But the fact that the streak existed in the first place is a strong testament to her hard work and undying desire to give her best whenever she steps on the court.

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Edited by Musab Abid
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