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Simona Halep bounces back from long injury lay-off for ninth straight Top 20 finish
The former world No. 1 achieved the feat after missing three crucial months of the season with a calf injury and watching her ranking drop from No. 2 to No. 22.
Published Nov 30, 2021
For most of the first half of 2021, Simona Halep was one of the favorites for the title everywhere she went—she was ranked either No. 2 or No. 3 the entire time, after all.
But in Rome, tragedy struck—while leading Angelique Kerber in her opening match, 6-1, 3-3, Halep suffered a left calf injury that not only forced her to retire from that match, but then miss both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
She then withdrew from the Olympics, too.
Halep returned to the tour three months later in August, but the damage to her ranking had already been done. After her points from winning Wimbledon in 2019 dropped off she fell from No. 3 to No. 9, and when her points from reaching the quarterfinals in Canada in 2019 dropped off she dipped from No. 10 to No. 13.
That fall from No. 10 to No. 13 ended a streak of 373 straight weeks inside the Top 10, the eighth-longest streak in the Top 10 in WTA rankings history.
MOST CONSECUTIVE WEEKS IN THE TOP 10 IN WTA RANKINGS HISTORY
1,000: Martina Navratilova
746: Chris Evert
625: Steffi Graf
508: Gabriela Sabatini
458: Pam Shriver
429: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
421: Hana Mandlikova
373: Simona Halep
In Montreal this year, Halep was asked whether she watched any tournaments that were going on while she was recovering from her injury.
“Honestly, I didn’t watch,” she said. “Just a few balls, few games, but I didn’t pay attention. It was too painful to watch the matches. When you are injured, you feel sad and disappointed. It’s not really good, in my opinion, to watch the matches.
“But the time home was great. I was with my family. I was with my friends. So I needed this break to recharge my batteries, mentally first and of course physically, because of the injury. It’s not good in the middle of the year to get that break, but still I see the better part—it was good to recover a little bit.”
Though her return to the tour hit a few roadblocks—she lost her opening match in her first tournament back in Montreal to a red-hot Danielle Collins, then had to withdraw mid-tournament in Cincinnati due to a thigh injury—and even though her ranking would eventually slip as low as No. 22, Halep finished the year strong.
The Romanian won 13 of her last 17 matches of the year, a stretch highlighted by reaching the fourth round in Flushing Meadows (the 20th time in her career that she’s reached the second week of a Grand Slam) and the final of the Transylvanian Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania (the 40th WTA final of her career).
After reaching another semifinal in Linz, Halep rose from No. 22 to No. 20 just in time for the year-end rankings, giving her an incredible ninth straight Top 20 finish.
Perhaps more importantly, it was an upward trend to finish off an injury-marred 2021—and if she carries that fall form into 2022, it’s only a matter of time before the 2018 Roland Garros and 2019 Wimbledon champion starts another Top 10 streak.