Hapless Halep crashes out of WTA Finals
Romanian top seed beaten by Radwanska, who makes semis thanks to some help from Sharapova
For a while yesterday, top seed Simona Halep looked on course for the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals presented by SC Global.
But, after establishing a 3-1 lead in the first set of her third round-robin match against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the Romanian ran out of steam and capitulated in spectacular fashion.
The world No. 2 had led Radwanska 5-1 in the tie-breaker in the first set, only to lose the next six points and the set.
Halep then collapsed in the second set and was able to muster only a single game as she eventually lost 7-6, 6-1 in 1hr 43min, a result which dumped her out of the Finals.
Considering the 24-year-old had impressively routed US Open champion Flavia Pennetta 6-0, 6-2 in the first match last Sunday, her elimination was a huge shock.
Halep could have advanced to the semi-finals even in defeat yesterday if she had won a set after the Romanian split her opening two matches - a 6-0, 6-3 win over Flavia Pennetta and a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Maria Sharapova.
She explained that the turning point was the tie-breaker in the first set.
"(After losing the tie-breaker), I was done," said Halep, who was top seed at the elite eight-woman event in Singapore after the withdrawal of defending champion Serena Williams due to fatigue.
"No energy any more. I was tired.
"I felt that I lost the chance to win the first set and probably I lost the chance to win the match in that moment.
"My coach was telling me many things, but I couldn't hear because I was done and I was very nervous."
Radwanska, the world No. 6, admitted that it was a day when "everything was working for me".
Out of the various possible scenarios from yesterday's two matches, only one - her beating Halep and Sharapova beating Pennetta in straight sets - would have seen the 26-year-old make it through to the semi-finals, following defeats in her first two matches.
But that was just what happened, as Sharapova produced a top-notch display to score a 7-5, 6-1 victory over the Italian - who has officially hung up her racket - in 1hr 28min.
It was Halep's exit, though, that was on everybody's lips at the stadium.
Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam winner, had ominously pointed out just minutes before the match how Halep's effort at making subtle changes to her game this year had "rattled her base game" and made her more prone to errors.
That proved to be the case.
Halep said: "She (Radwanska) was dominating me because I was a few steps too far from the baseline, so I couldn't dominate the match.
"She started to play her best. I give her a lot of credit because she played good tennis today."
Halep insisted, however, she was happy with the way 2015 had panned out for her, and set her sights on more success next season.
She won the biggest title of her career at Indian Wells in May and also lifted trophies in Dubai and Shenzhen. But she suffered a first-round defeat at Wimbledon and a second-round exit at Roland Garros, although she reached the semi-finals of the US Open.
"I think I had a good year this year," said Halep.
"Ups and downs, but it was okay.
"I will finish (the year) No. 2 or No. 3 in the world, so it's pretty good for me. It's the second year in a row.
"I really want to get better, I want to do better next year."
For now, though, she has only one thing on her mind.
"I just want to take a holiday now," she said, flashing a megawatt smile.
"I don't want think about tennis any more.
"Then I will (return) stronger."
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