Brain Game: Halep's Victory Over Kerber

Simona Halep put on a dazzling mix of offense and defense against Angelique Kerber in the final of the Qatar Total Open on Sunday - take another look at the big match from a statistical perspective...

Published February 16, 2014 12:11

DOHA, Qatar - Simona Halep got off to a flying start and saved all four break points she faced to record the biggest win of her career in Doha Sunday.

Halep defeated Angelique Kerber, 62 63, to win the prestigious Qatar Total Open and move her career best ranking up one spot to No.9 in the world.

Halep's aggressive play started in the opening game where she blasted a forehand return winner on the second point of the match and broke Kerber to love two points later when Kerber double faulted to hand the Romanian the opening game. Halep won 12 of the opening 17 points and established the scoreboard as another tough opponent for Kerber to overcome.

Halep also started her opening service game with aggressive play hitting two backhand winners down the line and also adding a forehand winner to clearly stamp her authority on the match right from the outset.

SAP analytics showed that Halep and Kerber ended up very even for the match with total groundstroke winners (Halep 18 and Kerber 17) but as is typically the case the real difference in the final outcome was to be found in the errors column. Halep was far more solid in this area with only six forehand and two backhand unforced errors for the match while Kerber had almost triple that amount with 11 forehand and 12 backhand unforced errors.

A real strength of Halep's game is that she plays smart, building points with consistency and court position, before using depth and direction with her power game to end it. Having the right mentality to construct points and weapons to finish them is quickly making her the hottest player on tour.

Halep's toughness, saving all four break points she faced, was another critical component of her stunning victory. Halep saved the first one serving at 5-2, 30-40 in the opening set by stretching Kerber out wide in the ad court with her first serve that opened up a hole in the deuce court to attack with her backhand down the line on the next shot - a ball that Kerber could not get back over the net on the dead run.

Halep saved the second one a few points later with a backhand lob winner that should have been an easy forehand winner for Kerber right on top of the net. Another forehand winner on the third break point of the game helped Halep secure the opening set and answer questions about her mental toughness in the final.

The last break point Halep faced was in her opening service game of the second set when she again served out wide in the ad and attacked with a first shot backhand down the line winner. Her backhand down the line is monster weapon of her game.

Halep broke Kerber at 2-2 in the second set with - you guessed it - another backhand winner down the line, this time coming from a Kerber drop shot.

Halep's aggressiveness to begin the point saw Kerber unusually have a slightly higher winning percentage on her second serve with 53% (8/15) than on her second serve with 52.3% (23/44). Kerber finished the match a double fault as Halep scored her third Top 10 victory of the week, collecting the winners' cheque for $441,000. It was the seventh career title for Halep with the other six all coming last year.

Craig O'Shannessy (@BrainGameTennis) is the leading analyst for wtatennis.com throughout the 2014 season, utilizing SAP Data & Insights to uncover the patterns and percentages that dominate the game. Visit Craig's website at www.braingametennis.com for more expert strategy analysis.


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