It’s official. Simona Halep is my new favorite player to watch. Not my favorite player overall. That is still reserved for Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and a few others. But Simona is fast becoming an overall favorite. What I meant in my opening statement is that I love watching the way Simona takes the ball early and hits laser groundstroke winners. When she’s on, I could watch her shot making all day. She just started working with coach Wim Fissette this week. Wim was the longtime coach of Kim Clijsters, my second all-time favorite player to Monica Seles, and the way Halep hits groundstrokes, finding lines and sharp angles, reminds me of Kimmie. From the moment Simona fell behind 2-5 in the first set of her semifinal against Agnieszka Radwanska at the 2014 Qatar Total Open in Doha, those laser shots were on display as Halep lifted her game to oust Aga 7-5 6-2 and then turn around the next day and dismiss Angelique Kerber 6-2 6-3 in the final.
Simona Halep was the 2013 WTA Most Improved Player, on the strength of 6 tournament victories…her first 6 titles of her career. None of those 6 were as big as her 7th at the 2014 Qatar Total Open. This was her first Premier 5 victory. She picks up $441,000 for winning the event as well as 900 ranking points. She will move to #9 when the new rankings are published.
It was a perfect end to the doubles draw as Peng Shuai and Hsieh Su-Wei won the doubles titles. I thought they had a legitimate claim to being the top doubles team of 2013, but that award went to another deserving pair, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani. However, this week Peng Shuai became the #1 ranked doubles player in the world, while Hsieh Su-Wei became #2. Those are the highest rankings in singles or doubles for a player from China (Peng Shuai) or Taiwan (Hsiesh Su-Wei). As a doubles team, Peng and Hsieh are a perfect 10-0 in finals. Earlier in the week, Li Na became the highest ranked player from Asia in singles, male or female, when she rose to #2 in the world. Unfortunately, the celebration was short lived as she went out early in the tournament.
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PENG SHUAI & HSIEH SU-WEI