Tennis: WTA founder Billie Jean King hails "exceptional" Simona Halep

BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, Day 3 match between Simona Halep vs Serena Williams at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Oct 22, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, Day 3 match between Simona Halep vs Serena Williams at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Oct 22, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: JEREMY LONG

Women's Tennis Association (WTA) founder and tennis legend Billie Jean King has heaped high praise on Simona Halep, calling the Romanian "exceptional" and likened her to International Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Hingis after she routed Serena Williams in their round-robin clash on Wednesday.

The diminutive Halep, standing at 1.68m tall, squared off against 1.75m tall world No. 1 Williams and defeated the American in straight sets (6-0, 6-2), handing the WTA Finals defending champion her worst loss since 1998 when she was beaten by Joannette Kruger (6-1, 6-1).

Asked if there was still a place for smaller-sized athletes in today's power-dominated game, King said: "Totally. They have to be exceptional, like Halep. I really got interested in her about two and a half years ago. I saw her on television in a small tournament someplace. It was on Tennis Channel in the States.

"I went 'who is that?'. She hits the ball so clean, she's smooth, her serve is getting better and better.

"I think she's very gifted, and I would consider her an exception. How tall is she? Five foot six inches, five foot five inches? I would consider her an exceptional athlete. Hingis was in that same category. I think they're both brilliant. The way they think and develop the points.

"She's exceptional. She's fun. She's tough. I think she was down, what, (six) break points against Serena and she won every single one of them. That's what you look for."

King, who has 12 grand slam singles title, added she was pleased with how far the WTA has come since she founded it in 1973.

Said the 70-year-old: "It continues to get better and better. Back then, we just didn't have these opportunities they have now. That was our dream for future generations.

"I would love to be their age today and playing in this. So much fun. Look at the opportunities. It's so exciting. It's like your stage if you're an actor or performer."