Two of tennis’ most significant attributes surfaced in Simona Halep’s 6-2, 6-4 win over Amanda Anisimova in today’s Wimbledon quarterfinal.

First there was the matter of matchups. This interactive dimension is compelling in all forms of competition, but in team sports, it’s possible to alter the flow of the battle by moving various players into different configurations. An individual sport like tennis eliminates that possibility. Each competitor is strictly at the mercy of his or her skill set and the ability to execute it on that given day.

Versus Anisimova, the matchup tilted clearly and rapidly in Halep’s favor. In the ball-striking department, not much separates these two. If anything, Anisimova strikes the ball with more pace, particularly off a backhand that is one of the best in women’s tennis.

But Halep’s court coverage skills are far superior. Both players knew this, an awareness that compelled Anisimova to immediately attempt highly concussive groundstrokes—even bigger than usual. This is rarely a winning formula. And just simply being aware of the need to command the rally early can make even simple shots nerve-wracking. Anisimova committed 28 unforced errors, compared to only six for Halep.

“Simona is just very tough to play,” said Anisimova.  “It's hard to figure out how to play your best tennis against her.”


Halep is yet to drop a set in her return to the final four.

Halep is yet to drop a set in her return to the final four.

For the vast majority of this match, all the assets that have taken Halep to two Grand Slam singles titles were on display. She patrolled the court brilliantly, flinging back Anisimova’s flat drives and, soon enough and quite often, driving the ball with depth and pace off both sides. Added to the mix was Halep’s improved serve. Serving in the first set at 2-1, 30-all, Halep struck a 112 m.p.h. delivery down the T that extracted a missed backhand return. At 40-30, a crisp 109 m.p.h., again to the Anisimova backhand, delivered the same result.

Points and games flew by. “I'm not seeing what the opponent is doing because I'm really focused on myself,” said Halep. “I've always done that.”

To a great degree, Halep’s ability to smother Anisimova with movement was reminiscent of the way Serena Williams had dominated Maria Sharapova. Sharply as Anisimova can strike the ball, once that was countered by Halep, there was little else she could do, showing scarcely an aptitude (or appetite?) for variations in pace, spin, net play. In less than an hour, Halep had taken a 6-2, 5-1 lead.

But then came that second tennis attribute. A player must play every minute of the game. There are no relief pitchers, no closer you can bring in from the bullpen to finish the job. Here enters the way tennis can play tricks with the mind. One game away from victory, the natural tendency is to ponder the anticipated and delightful outcome. That of course is dangerous. Meanwhile, the player who stands one game from defeat focuses strictly on process, on simply playing one good point after another. This is the most effective way to compete.


“I don't really like playing not to the fullest of my abilities,” said Anisimova, “especially in such a packed stadium. It's very disappointing for me."

“I don't really like playing not to the fullest of my abilities,” said Anisimova, “especially in such a packed stadium. It's very disappointing for me."

“I don't really like playing not to the fullest of my abilities,” said Anisimova, “especially in such a packed stadium. It's very disappointing for me. So I was very upset.”

It hardly seemed to mean anything when Anisimova held at 1-5. But when she broke Halep in the next game, a degree of tension surfaced for the first time. So goes the genius of tennis’ scoring system. Anisimova went on hold at 3-5 and go up love-40 on Halep’s serve. By this stage she’d won 15 of 19 points, propelled by a slew of the laser-sharp groundstrokes that make her one of tennis’ premier ball-strikers. Anisimova’s movement had also picked up just well enough to put her in place to press Halep.

Meanwhile, Halep began a familiar pattern, rushing a bit more in between points, even berating herself. The world has seen this negative aspect of Halep for many years. Were Anisimova to level the set, the match’s emotional texture would be massively altered.

But here, Halep battened down the hatches. She dug in well to reach deuce—and then, quite impressively, struck a 113 m.p.h. service winner down the T. On match point, Anisimova lined a backhand long. It had been a valiant push, but not quite successful enough to pose deeper questions.


“[It] was not easy at all,” said Halep, “because I feel like she played without thinking that she has something to lose, so every ball was really hard hit.

“But I refused that she's going to come at 5-All. Even if I was 0-40, I was a little bit hard on myself. I pumped myself [up]. I served very well. I believed I could finish the match 6-4. I really believed it.”

This was Halep’s 12th straight victory at Wimbledon, going back to her 2019 title run. It also put her in the semis for the third time, where her opponent will be Elena Rybakina. The two have played one another three times. Halep has won twice, including their most recent match, a three-setter she won last year in the third round of the US Open.

“I know she's a big hitter,” said Halep. “I played against her a few times. I'm sure that she has a lot of confidence being in semis now here in Wimbledon. But it's a new match, new challenge. I'm ready for it and I will try to give everything to take my chance.”

Should Halep beat Rybakina, she’ll play the winner of the match between Tatjana Maria and Ons Jabeur. In WTA events, Halep is 1-0 versus Maria and 2-2 against Jabeur. Jabeur won their last match, played on the clay of Madrid this spring. The Cinderella aspect of the 34-year-old Maria’s finest Slam run is intriguing. Consider also how the style contrast of Halep’s laser drives and Jabeur’s eclectic array could make for many sparkling rallies. But as the tricky closing stages of Halep’s victory today proved, it’s best to finish one match before looking ahead to the next.