Simona Halep is one of the feel-good sports stories of 2013.
As recently as mid-May, she was ranked No 64 in the world and had never won a WTA tournament. She was perhaps best known as the player who had breast-reduction surgery in 2009, at the age of 18, in the hope it would aid her quickness and reduce chronic back pain.
For three years, she lost nearly as often as she won, but for the past five months, she has been one of the most successful players in the game, winning 34 of 40 matches and five WTA championships.
Only Serena Williams has more titles this year.
The turning point for a woman who describes herself as an “aggressive baseliner” was in Rome.
She won two qualifying matches to reach the main draw, then surged to the final, defeating Agnieszka Radwandska and Jelena Jankovic en route. Thereafter, she won titles at Nuremberg, ‘S-Hertogenbosch, Budapest, New Haven and Moscow, the latter representing her most lucrative victory, coming over Samantha Stosur in straight sets.
Halep is now ranked No 14, and perhaps all that keeps the short-but-muscular counter-puncher from added recognition is a deep run in a grand slam; the fourth round at the US Open this year is her best.
Still, it is refreshing to see a fresh face surge into the top 20, earning nearly US$1 million (Dh3.67m) in the process. Tennis could use a few more breakthroughs like hers.
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