Australian Open triumph could seal Simona Halep's status of dominance
The women's draw at the Australian Open continues to be as unpredictable as ever, but in Simona Halep, there is finally a player capable of consistency in tennis' four biggest tournaments.
Only three of the top 10 seeds have made it through to quarter-final stage: Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova. Of that trio, only the Romanian has been in contention for the titles that every player craves.
- Halep surges into the quarter-finals after seeing off Mertens
- Watch all courts and all matches of the Australian Open live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player
A triumph at the Australian Open would represent a significant step in Halep's career. While it is clear that her favourite Slam is the French Open, with three of her five finals coming on the clay at Roland Garros, she has also won at Wimbledon but only once has she reached one on a hard court.
That was in Melbourne two years ago, where she lost in a pulsating tie to Caroline Wozniacki. Of her contemporaries, only Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, both significantly older than her, have won Slams on all three surfaces. It would also prove that her early exits at the US Open for the last three seasons were aberrations rather than due to a weakness in her game in a particular set of conditions.
Within the wider tennis world, it could usher in an era of Simona dominance. Naomi Osaka looks to have struggled to deal with the limelight into which she was thrust with her New York and Australian Open triumph, while Bianca Andreescu's injury problems during her young career have been well-documented and could stop her from developing as she should. As for Garbine Muguruza, she has seldom shown the mental steel required to be consistently at the top of the game, despite her pedigree of having won both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Serena Williams, who has reached four Grand Slam finals in four years, has struggled to get over the line against players who are significantly fitter than her and play more tennis. This is where Halep has an advantage: she is one of the fittest players on the circuit and it seems at times her biggest enemy is her own self-confidence. Winning here would give her plenty of that.
That is not to suggest that victory here would be easy. Barty is a reigning Grand Slam champion and will have the full weight of the crowd behind her if the two were to meet in the final, while her quarter-final opponent Kvitova has genuine pedigree at this tournament, having reached the final last year and has bona fide experience of winning these tournaments, having claimed two Wimbledon titles.
Halep has a dominant head-to-head record against both of them, though, and will be fancying her chances of winning. She is yet to drop a set en route to the quarter-finals, while Barty has been taken the distance twice and Kvitova once.
If Serena continues to struggle in Grand Slam finals, there is a chance for someone new to step into her shoes and become the player to beat in women's tennis. Simona Halep is well-placed to be that person.