Tennis Prose



Biofile: Simona Halep Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Winner of 2019 Wimbledon and 2018 Roland Garros. The former WTA no. 1 ranked player has won 21 career WTA singles titles and $38.8 million in prize money (third on the all time WTA list behind the Williams sisters).

Last Book Read: “What? Why you talk so fast [smiles]? (Sorry, what is the last book you read?) Last book…actually I don’t finish books. I don’t know why. I get bored. But I started to read psychology. I like psychology books.”

Current Car: “Mercedes. (Color?) In the moment, now in the tournament, red.”

Tennis Inspirations: “Female – Justine Henin. And male – Federer.”

First Tennis Memory: “When I was six I got the trophy for the youngest player in the tournament.”

First Famous Tennis Player You Met Or Encountered: “I think it was Ilie Nastase for sure because he’s Romanian [smiles].”

Greatest Career Moment: “Finals, French Open 2014.”

Most Painful Moment: “That one [smiles].”

Favorite Tournament: “Indian Wells.”

Strangest Match: “Strangest moment is when I lose when I lead by a lot. And that happened yesterday (in Miami vs Stosur down a set and 5-3 and match point)! But I won [laughs] (46 75 62).”

Favorite Sport Outside of Tennis: “Handball.”

Three Athletes You Like To Watch & Follow: “Now in the moment? Or before? (Both.) Before it was a football player Gyorgy Hagi from Romania. Virginia Ruzica I watched play tennis on You Tube. And three…one more…Justine Henin. Because she’s my idol.”

Funniest Players Encountered: “Tough question now…Funny, funny, who’s funny?…I will say Jelena Jankovic.”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Chocolate.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “To be kind. And good inside. Like, for the character to be good.”

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  • Hartt · April 10, 2017 at 8:57 am

    The stats for the final are interesting regarding degree of aggressive play. Pavs had 49 winners and 31 UFEs. Angie had 14 winners and 10 UFEs – not a lot for a 3 set match.

  • Hartt · April 10, 2017 at 9:02 am

    So it sounds like the take is that Angie has lost some motivation, having made her goals last season, and as a result is not playing as aggressively as when she was striving to be No. 1 and winning Slams.

  • Andrew Miller · April 10, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Kerber: “2016 was epic. 2017 was 2015”
    And the wta merry go round continues…

  • Andrew Miller · April 10, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Lets NOT celebrate mediocrity. Performances outside the big tournaments have been woeful on wta. So much so it may be the Woeful Tennis Association

  • catherine bell · April 10, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Scoop –

    No 1 might be a nice place to be but it’s not a nice place to come down from either, not the way Angie is doing.

    You look at the way she stands when she’s left holding the runners-up trophy. There’s got to be some motivation to get away from there.

  • catherine bell · April 10, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Scoop –
    I meant ‘visit’ of course. Angie’s visit at No1 was a short one but her leave-taking has been long and miserable.

  • catherine bell · April 10, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Andrew –
    I’m not sure anyone wants to ‘celebrate mediocrity’. But the WTA are duty bound to be cheerleaders for anyone who wins a tournament. Anyone.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 10, 2017 at 9:36 am

    It’s got to be hard to act like no 1 in the world when you KNOW you’re really not and the real authentic no 1 is that player who takes a lot of breaks and hiatuses and is also on the verge of breaking Court’s legendary record – Will the real WTA world no 1 please stand up!

  • Hartt · April 10, 2017 at 10:35 am

    As great as she is, it is hard to get excited about the “authentic No. 1 player” when she is in what I want to call “semi-retirement.”

    Am anxiously waiting for Kvitova’s return. She can drive a fan to distraction with her inconsistency but, at her best, she is a truly amazing player. And am surprised to say am also looking forward to Azarenka’s return. She can bring some compelling tennis into the mix. Was not a Sharapova fan even before the meldonium disclosure, so have not missed her at all. But there is no getting around it, her return will be big news.

    In the meantime, hope we start to see better play from women such as Kerber, Halep and Muguruza.

    And I’m enjoying watching Ka. Pliskova and young Kasatkina.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Bouchard is still struggling – she even tried doubles last week and lost first round with mchale – Keep an eye on Konta and Safarova too –

  • Andrew Miller · April 10, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Catherine, the wta can do its job, and should. From a sports perspective, last week didn’t have much sterling play. Young Ms. Ostapenko has much to improve, a unique and captivating player she is not yet. Ms. DKat has an interesting muscle game similar to Mauresmo, with far less flair, and far less game. Again I remain bewildered that a mid level junior style dominates. Perhaps a nothing new under the sun thing. I lament it because it’s very boring to see, in this day and age, that the dominant style is baseline bashing. That today, not knowing how to volley is under emphasized, whereas in recent years past it was a staple of the game – you had to be able to knock off a volley. I hold up for you young racquet demolisher Yuli Putinseva, who packs a punch. She hits a hard ball from the baseline – that’s it! That is it. End of story. A hard ball from the baseline.
    The tour doesn’t die at the upper level of the sport. It dies at the roots.

  • Hartt · April 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Yes, I root for Safarova, partly because she is so likable, as well as being a good player. It’s great to see her healthy after such a rough season health-wise last year. I also like the way she plays both doubles and singles – currently she is No. 2 in doubles and No. 28 in singles.

    Am finding it hard to warm to Konta, am not sure why, she is certainly having good results this year. Perhaps if I get to see her play more often will be more interested.

    Regarding Bouchard, according to Stephnie Myles Genie has taken a WC for an ITF tourney this week. So at least she is willing to try different things to get some match play. For Canadian women’s tennis right now I think the big news is 16-year-old Bianca Andreescu who made the final of Sante Fe last week. Unfortunately she had to retire in that match against Pera. Hope it is not serious because she lost several months at the beginning of last season because of injury. She is now the No. 2 Canadian player; ranked No. 189 she has passed Abanda in the rankings.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 10, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I really miss that Seles vs Graf rivalry, the lefty vs righty, two hander vs slicer, tennis could not have had a better possible rivalry than that. It would take a miracle for women’s tennis to get a rivalry like that again in the future. For those who don’t remember or who missed that rivalry, you sure missed something special. You could not have two more contrasting styles and personalities.

  • catherine bell · April 10, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Andrew – we’ve been lamenting the dominant style of women’s tennis for a long time but I can’t see any change coming soon. And actually the game doesn’t die – it just drones on.
    Unless coaches at the junior level try to institute a different approach then I can’t honestly predict anything but more of the same for ever and ever.
    You just need one dominant player with an aggressive all-court game to inspire and influence others – that’s how styles change.

  • catherine bell · April 10, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Scoop –
    We won’t know if Serena is still number one until she returns and starts playing again. And I’m sure Angie doesn’t need to be reminded of that.
    And I think Venus’ comment after she beat Angie in Miami was ungracious and most likely Angie noticed it.

    Seles/Graf ? Yes, it was a good rivalry but unfortunately it didn’t continue for very long and the women’s game has produced nothing similar since. We can’t go on looking backwards.

  • catherine bell · April 10, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Kerber’s not playing again until Stuttgart where everybody will turn out to welcome Sharapova. So a break for Angie and a chance to regroup and refocus.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 10, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    The power of the girls at baseline from junior age to pros is almost unbelievable how hard they can smack the ball over and over and over. To even think of having a chance to be a pro or top college player, a girl has to be super solid from the baseline. Years and years of practicing and honing and working on baseline play. The girls are all so steady and consistent that they can’t work on anything else. The imbalance is unfixable. They just hit the ball too hard to try serve and volley or drop shots. When players hit the ball so hard and so accurate you just can’t deviate from that with trickery or guile. It’s like fighting Mike Tyson. He was so quick and relentless that you had to just dig down and fight him. A few bigger guys could box him but everybody else had to fight him and only a few could beat prime Tyson at fighting toe to toe. These women now are all like prime Mike Tysons. They all force each other to slug it out and see who is the last girl standing.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 10, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Catherine; Serena is no. 1 all time. She’s sitting out to preserve her body so it can last for as long as possible. She might be aiming to play another five years at least, like Federer. Wish Kerber would have used Venus’s words as extra motivation and extra incentive but losing the final in Monterrey is another disappointment that shows Venus was right. Going to post a Graf vs Seles rivalry feature tomorrow…

  • catherine bell · April 10, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Scoop – these girls can hit the ball as hard as they like but the ultimate effect is very boring. And in the end they’ll drive away spectators – probably have already done so. Me,for one.

    There’s no way Serena will be playing for another five years – her knees are shot to start with and she may have other things on her mind. And I can’t see how she can be a perpetual number one when she never plays.

    Venus’ comment re Kerber was barbed and unfair. I seem to recall you yourself thinking it was a bit insulting only a couple of short weeks ago. And why should Angie find motivation and incentive in what amounted to an insult ?
    Kerber’s struggle is with herself.

    Seles ? Never my favourite player TBH – and Steffi would have figured her out eventually.
    My favourite rivalry was Court v King ๐Ÿ™‚ They detested each other.

  • catherine bell · April 10, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I looked at some of Kerber’s match again – she was overly defensive and a bit sloppy for a lot of it and by the third set she was mentally and physically exhausted. Reason she folded up so quickly.

    She should play through this year but with lower expectations. Be easier on herself. If that’s possible.

  • Hartt · April 10, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I wish more of the WTA players served better. That does not necessarily mean with more power but with better placement. If a player could hit her spots on the serve and use a better variety of serves I think she would have a step up on her opponents. Have been paying more attention to their serves lately and too often the first serve simply lands in the middle of the service box. I know the women put a lot of emphasis on the return game but make it as difficult as possible for your opponent to make a good return and thus set yourself up for the next point.

  • Andrew Miller · April 10, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Scoop, if hitting hard were the bar Gulbis would be peerless. He’s not. Brenda Schulz McCarthy would have won a singles slam. She didn’t.
    The sport has a vast array of shots. Seeing three utilized – fh, bh, serve – that’s not the game of tennis. That’s ordering at a fast food joint!

    Yes I lament it. I lament that there are maybe 30, 40 wta players with complete games. Astonishing.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 10, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Catherine: Venus’s insult is bulletin board material – Gotta prove her wrong – Why did Court hate BJK? That’s interesting as BJK is nearly this saint like figure now and should be above hating any opponent –

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 10, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    I would guess the pressure of being no 1 is weighing heavily on poor Kerber – it’s a lot of extra work and certain players are built better to handle all the obligations – I would guess Kerber was happier being no 6 in the world –

  • Andrew Miller · April 10, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Some weeks the wta is the tour to watch. Just not this past one. Konta vs Williams down in Miami was some Scintillating stuff given contrast of styles. Perhaps it isn’t the baseline bashing, but the fact that there are so many copycats and apparently so few instructors who can push something more than stay on the baseline and wallop the ball.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 10, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    I hit with one of the WTA hitting partners in Key Biscayne and he said the girls only want flat hard shots and little topspin and no slice – another one a few years ago said Kirilenko basically kicked him off the court because he hit with too much spin – Not much variety in WTA matches or practices – Before her match with Halep I did see Konta practicing taking out of the air shots around the service line and hitting swing volleys – about the only variety I saw in ladies practices – Hingis and Chan hit a lot of cross courts and then one at net hitting a lot of volleys with two other hitting partners also at net with the one Hingis or Chan at net or back at baseline –

  • catherine bell · April 11, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Andrew – 30 or 40 WTA players with complete games ? Or do you mean 3 or 4 ?

    Hartt – serving does not come naturally to girls/women for reasons to do with body build, strength etc. But a lot of women could serve better. They just don’t think it’s necessary with a baseline game.

    Scoop – You’re right about Angie to the extent that I don’t believe she was prepared for what hit her when she became No 1, and although she probably wouldn’t take back any of it the effects are long lasting. I hope everything stabilises for her as the year goes on.

  • catherine bell · April 11, 2017 at 3:16 am

    Scoop –
    Complicated story about BJK and Court and you’d need a time machine to transport you back to the 60s and 70s in order to understand it.

    However, if you read Grace Lichtenstein’s book ‘You’ve Come a Long Way Baby’, and do a bit of reading between the lines, you’ll get a good feel for the undercurrents around then.

    Margaret was a religious girl from a conservative Australian background – she did not approve of BJs political stance in the days of Women’s Lib etc, or of the double life which BJ necessarily lived at that time.
    Margaret wanted change to come without being involved in it herself – she thought her performance on court was the important thing. Off court she was quite shy and retiring. And of course in their rivalry she came out ahead of BJ and probably thought she deserved more recognition.

    Margaret had two careers really – as Margaret Smith and then as Margaret Court – she ‘retired’ for a time in the 60s and ran a dress shop in Perth for a while I think. You could do things like that then.

    BJ thought Margaret just sat back and took the rewards without putting the work in. They could never have been friends.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 11, 2017 at 4:28 am

    Thanks Catherine. Knew nothing about that. Its never talked about. Bjk is above criticism now. I think she walks on water. Funny how intense rivalries can be downplayed or swept under a rug. Like Stan vs Kyrgios. I was told Kyrgios vs Djokovic stems from an incident at a resort party at night and also because Djokovic is very close friends with Stan.

  • Andrew Miller · April 11, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Catherine, at slams I often see players I didn’t know existed with more complete games. I estimate that the number of players with “more complete”, even well rounded, games on the wta tour is that many. These complete games don’t necessarily result in going far at a tournament but they provide fans with a break from a monoculture of strategies.

  • Hartt · April 11, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Yes, I know the serve does not come as naturally for the women and they think they don’t need to serve well in a baseline game. But if more added a good serve (as I said with placement, not necessarily power) that would put them 1 step ahead of their opponents. In the meantime I am going to pay attention to the players like Ka. Pliskova who can serve well.

  • Hartt · April 11, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Since this seems to be the main thread right now will post this here.

    Doubles news: Several singles players are playing doubles as well in Houston and Marrakech. Guess they want to get extra work in on the clay. For example, in Houston Anderson/Querrey will play Baker/Maktic. Tiafoe is teamed with Dustin Brown and Donald Young is also playing doubles.

  • catherine bell · April 11, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Hartt –

    Blame coaches who early on probably tell girls they don’t have to worry about serving.

    Just get the ball in court and then you can slash away.

    Plus it’s probably more fun to exchange endless baseline rallies with your friends than to stand there hour after hour with a bucket of balls breaking your back and dislocating your shoulder in search of the perfect serve ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Hartt · April 11, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Another example of how poor serving is costly. Belinda Bencic lost her match today in Switzerland against Witthoeft. I saw part of the match and it was mainly bashing the ball from the baseline that Andrew complains about, although there were a couple forays to the net. But the biggest problem for Bencic was 9 DFs against 1 ace. I know injuries both last season and this have played havoc with Belinda’s game, but she would work hard to win a point, only to undo that effort with a DF.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 11, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Bencic is struggling mightily all year and I don’t know if the root of the problem is injury anymore – She’s playing tournaments (indicates she’s healthy) but she’s not winning a satisfying amount of matches – her ranking is now outside 100 – She will have to qualify for Roland Garros after being no 9 seed last year –

  • Hartt · April 11, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Bencic retired from her QF match in the ITF tourney she played at the end of March, so wonder if she is still struggling with injury, perhaps her back. It’s sad to see a talented young player go through such a tough patch.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 11, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Bencic won two matches in that low level ITF event in France and then retired in the third – I was told by a WTA rep that she needed to win that title in order to up her ranking so she would be in the French Open main draw and not have to play qualies so there was a lot of pressure on her – Now her ranking is around 130 and she will have to qualify – Bencic was a teenager who showed a ton or potential (like Laura Robson and others) but her professional career has been very inconsistent and a lot less accomplished than was expected – I hate to say this but Bencic is approaching “bust” status though there is plenty of time to right the ship as Bencic is just 20 – It could be injuries it could be heavy pressure and expectations (she had a load of sponsors since like fourteen or fifteen – like Capriati) and it could be that she is just not a good enough mover –

  • Andrew Miller · April 11, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    USA men littering top 100. Despite terrible Davis Cup outing down under, the “up and coming generation” has done great in the rankings. I think they are due for a slip in clay season, bit maybe a few USA men will step up from now through the French Open and show some dirtballer skills.

  • catherine bell · April 12, 2017 at 2:39 am

    On serving – of course you can go to the other extreme:

    A US player of years ago, Barbara Potter, had a pretty good serve but erratic elsewhere and I recall Pam Shriver, after suffering a few Potter deliveries, skewering her after the match:
    ‘If Barbara didn’t have that serve she’d be in the Qualifying’.


  • Hartt · April 12, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Just saw the match between Kristyna Pliskova and Vekic, so got to enjoy some good serving from Kristyna. She had 7 aces and 2 DFs in her win, 6-1, 6-2 in 54 minutes. Another plus of serving well, getting those free points on your serve. Her first serve % was pretty dismal at just 48% but her 2nd serve was effective and her serve bailed her out of a couple tough moments. Kristyna also plays doubles and made a few nice volleys and lobs, showing the help doubles experience can give. Vekic did not provide a lot of resistance but Kristyna did not give her many opportunities.

    I don’t know why Kristyna is so far behind her twin sister but this win moves her to No. 54 on the live rankings. Hopefully she will get well within the top 50 soon.

  • catherine bell · April 12, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Well, Krystina isn’t as good as her sister unfortunately – the genes haven’t split equally there.

    On the other hand it would be difficult if the two had to play each other on a regular basis. Wonder how they would cope ? I assume they’re identical twins – but maybe not if one is left and the other right handed.

  • Hartt · April 12, 2017 at 10:25 am

    They are called identical twins and they certainly look identical. I don’t know how that works with one being a lefty and one a righty.

    If they do play each other, different kits please! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 12, 2017 at 11:14 am

    First saw the Pliskova sisters at Bronx Challenger about five or six years ago – They are identical all right – They sure did catch your eye with their height and work ethic –

  • Hartt · April 12, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    If the WTA wants a story to catch the public’s interest they should do a feature on Vicky Duval’s return to tennis this week at the Indian Harbour ITF tourney. She has not played since last summer, having had knee surgery in Feb. 2016. She tried to come back too soon after the surgery so now has been away for many months.

    But of course the other story about Vicky is learning she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma just before she played qualies at the 2014 Wimbledon. She actually managed to get through qualies and won her first round match. But just before her 2nd round match against Bencic Vicky looked up info about the disease on her phone. She said she cried throughout that match.

    After she was finally able to play tennis again she was faced with the knee surgery.

    It is hard to believe Vicky is now 21 years old. I still think of her as the bubbly girl who beat defending champ Sam Stosur in the 1st round of the 2013 USO. She had already experienced hardship in her young life at that time. So, after she has come through even more adversity since then, still bubbly and positive, you want the very best for her.

  • Hartt · April 12, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Regarding Bencic, apparently she is still having pain in her wrist and that makes it difficult for her to train as regularly as she would like.

  • britbox · October 10, 2017 at 6:58 am

    Halep's Road to #1 from the WTA

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