Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Simona Halep's Game at the 2016 AO ...

... not a pretty sight.


Since Simona's return, I have not seen the new elements she promised late last year to implement in order to use more variety in her game: 2 volleys a match (beaten clearly in that area by Kuznetzova), 2 slices a match, 2 dropshots a match, what is that? SHOW ME THE GOODS.

Successive Halep Teams (going through Wim Fissette and Darren Cahill) have failed to upgrade her means towards a JHH-inspired system against the power players, based on variety.

My advice, in short:

1. Get Carlos Rodriguez or Justine herself as coach. Get on your knees if necessary, Simona.

2. PAY Horia Tecau, her old-time friend, a doubles champion, in fact a member of the current #1 doubles team in the world, to really teach her how to attack the net. Again, not a friendly service, pay him. "Brother, brother, but the cheese's for money" (Romanian proverb). We need responsibility on both sides. Just in time for the Olympics, mind you.

Other than that, I'm sticking to what I'm saying basically for two years:

[advice after 2015 USO defeat]

Unfortunately, this can only be called a major failure for Simona Halep and her coaching staff. Totally uninspired play today after an otherwise great tournament and great results in the premier events at Toronto and Cincinnati, an effort which deserves respect, but ...

Yes. Fire Darren Cahill too. In Grand Slams (which is all it counts when you're number 2 - remember Safina?) he hasn't been better than Wim Fissette, which I have assumed might be the case quite a while ago. Both baseliner-player coaches, unable to lift Halep to levels and means where she is able to beat the offensive, inspired players on the day she wants to, at her own choice and will, forcing the issue as multiple GS champions would.

For no one can pretend that Pennetta is physically imposing, like Williams, Sharapova or perhaps Wozniacki.

Thus, I have nothing to do but repeat myself from one year back


FWIW, I was one of those militating for a new coach for Simona Halep last year, after her defeat at Singapore in the final with Serena Williams:

Personally, if I were Halep, with all great results (including on the financial side), which I'd be blind not to see and appreciate, I'd change coaches right now, as I honestly don't see any progress on the crucial technical and strategical side this year:

- STILL no slice

- STILL no volley, no occasional S-V

- not enough dropshots

- STILL no plan B to speak of (see Serena today, she applied her plan B throughout by coming to the net on each and every short ball)

- not enough coach on-court intervention to change course (perhaps Halep doesn't like that), including in today's match

just a good maintenance at a very good level, for which she should thank the current coach.

I had the same recommendation for Bouchard, even though her results aren't quite at the same level as Halep's.

Otherwise, she will continue to lack the variety of means to beat the best on a consistent basis, and will wear out her body, by her current insistence on staying parked at the baseline. She should change her style more toward's Henin's, than Clijsters'.

Am I too harsh? I don't think so. And I have had this recommendation for some time; as well, it's only confirmed by today's match.

There is a time for everything, and this is the best time for it, before putting in the hard work for the next season.

Suggestions? Paul Annacone, Stefan Edberg (even part time would help tremendously; and he might become available), Carlos Rodriguez (I know he has that academy in China, and he left even Li Na in the lurch because of it), even Justine Henin (if Mauresmo coaches, why not her? she has a tennis academy).

Now, Henin might not be available for touring as a coach for now.


A new series of coaches has passed Simona's way and have been dismissed since then, however the ideas do not seem to have changed in her camp, for her game plan A wasn't improved, and no plan B has become available (since November 2014 to this June 2015). In the meanwhile, she has scored painful defeats (as in the Australian, at Roland Garros or in even in Miami against Serena), together with some great success (Indian Wells). Let me be clear, it is a great achievement to be number 2 or 3 in the world, but it is not even by far the same as becoming number 1 at the end of the year, or winning Grand Slams, and this is the name of the game for someone of Simona's talent.

Simon Halep has the shots (the volleys, the dropshots, the high topspin, the slice) but she is not using them enough or at all, or in the right proportion, even though she has great hands. I am convinced that, like Bouchard, she is not training enough such variety, for having it available in matches, and for being mentally ready to use them. Not only that, but the opposition have caught up to her somewhat uniform style, and it is _them_ who are using first variety to beat her (Wozniacki, by slicing and coming to the net to volley, at Stuttgart; Mladenovic, by volleying and dropshotting her at Roland Garros; [EDIT: add now Pennetta at the USO to that list]). This should be a big warning sign for Simona.

I, for one, and being strengthened in my convictions by her latest results, continue to believe that only something similar with Henin's game, based on variety (in order to befuddle the opponents, to mess up their footwork and contact point) and shortening of the exchanges (in order to reduce the body wear), can be successful for someone of Halep's height, if she wants to be successful against Serena and Sharapova, or against other heavy hitters, such as Lucic, and if she wants to achieve that while having a long career in full health.

And Wimbledon would be a great place to see such changes implemented: the grass favors the slice, the dropshots, the net play, the short exchanges, the breaks in rhythm, the surprise.

Marius Hancu

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