Halep seeks perfection as top seed at BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore

She thumps Pennetta in opener to reverse US Open upset but considers game 'normal'

Simona Halep playing a backhand return to Flavia Pennetta in her 6-0, 6-3 win yesterday. The top seed in the WTA Finals aims to go one better than last year when she lost in the final to Serena Williams.
Simona Halep playing a backhand return to Flavia Pennetta in her 6-0, 6-3 win yesterday. The top seed in the WTA Finals aims to go one better than last year when she lost in the final to Serena Williams.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Simona Halep showed yesterday on court that when she is in Singapore, she develops an appetite for bagels.

But what the world No. 2 is really after, as the top seed at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, is perfection.

She opened her campaign yesterday against Italian Flavia Pennetta 6-0, 6-3, a victory reminiscent of her 6-0, 6-2 rout of Serena Williams in the group stage of last year's tournament here.

  • Order of play

  • 11am

    WTA Future Stars U-14 final

    Fitriani Sabatini (Ina) v Chu Jiayu (Chn)

    Followed by:

    WTA Future Stars U-16 final

    Yun Hye Ran (Kor) v Pranjala Yadlapalli (Ind)

    Not before 4pm

    Chan Hao-ching/Chan Yung-jan (Tpe) v Caroline Garcia (Fra)/Katarina Srebotnik (Slo)

    Not before 6pm

    Garbine Muguruza (Esp) v Lucie Safarova (Cze)

    Not before 7.30pm

    Petra Kvitova (Cze) v Angelique Kerber (Ger)

    Followed by

    Martina Hingis (Sui)/Sania Mirza (Ind) v Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears (USA)

Said Halep, the runner-up last year on her debut: "I feel good here. I feel the court. I feel the game. I have great memories from last year, so I came with confidence."

What yesterday's result did not resemble was the one-sided affair between her and Pennetta at the US Open last month - when the latter won 6-1, 6-3 in the semi-finals.

Still, Halep remains unsatisfied, perhaps providing a clue as to what distinguishes great athletes.

She said: "I'm not disappointed about my game today, but I feel like it's not the perfect game. It was a normal game.

"I have many things that I just want to work again on them, still continue to work. I think (my) return was good, so everything in a big picture was good. But still, I'm not 100 per cent satisfied."

Asked if the Halep who showed up at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday was simply a superior twin sister to the sluggish one on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the Romanian said she was simply a smarter form of herself yesterday.

"I'm the same Halep, but in the good way. That was the bad way," she joked.

"I didn't play the right game against (Pennetta) at the US Open. Here, I was well prepared.

"I was expecting that she's going to play the same like in (New York), and I knew how to adapt the game. So I was solid. I was smart, aggressive, I can say. I didn't use overpower. I just opened the court and I tried to finish the point."

Pennetta, making her debut at the Finals but also playing the last Tour event of her professional career, said it was not the jitters that affected her.

She just committed more errors (27 to 14), made fewer first serves (54 per cent to 56 per cent) and failed to take her two chances to break.

"Maybe I had not too much energy," said the 33-year-old. "I didn't push a lot like (I) always did. Was waiting too much.

"(Simona) served better today for sure. She didn't make a lot of double faults and serving more slice on my forehand also."

The oldest player in the field of eight knows she will not recover as well as her younger competitors, but perhaps with the mentality of someone playing her swan-song, knows she has the opportunity to play freely.

She said: "For the moment I don't think about the other match, I have to say. I have to recover a little bit, to have more energy, to be more aggressive, and that's going to be my goal for the next match for sure.

"I would love to play a little bit better, but I still have my chance. I still have two matches I have to play, so we will see what happens."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline 'Halep seeks perfection'. Print Edition | Subscribe