Brain Game: Halep Vs Kvitova

Craig O'Shannessy takes a look back at the Mutua Madrid Open semifinal clash between Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova, but this time from a statistical perspective...

Published May 10, 2014 12:13

How you handle adversity is almost always more important than the problem itself.

Simona Halep missed a backhand return to fall behind a set and 1-3 against Petra Kvitova in their Mutua Madrid Open semifinal and the end of the match was rushing hard at her.

But instead of panicking, the 22-year old from Romania regrouped. Instead of speeding things up she slowed things down. Even though the score didn't dictate going to her bench she calmly walked over and took off her red visor and replaced it with a head band. New feel, new look - new player.

In the next game Kvitova missed three backhand returns and Halep surged to win 16 of 18 points to ultimately run away with a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2 victory to move through to Saturday's final against Maria Sharapova.

Sometimes all you need is a little change and a little time.

The maturity in Halep's game is evident during and between the points as she is refining a game style where she doesn't beat herself and maximizes the percentages of the sport that really matter for mega-success.

Kvitova possessed far more firepower than Halep in the match but victory in a tennis match is far more defined by who makes fewer errors - not who hits more winners.

The enduring strength of Halep's game is how solid she is at the back of the court and how smart she is when she finally decides to pull the trigger. Halep only committed 24 unforced errors for the match while Kvitova was almost triple that amount with 66. Halep has a mature head on her young shoulders and has an excellent feel for the subtleties of strategy such as when to let the opponent press and make the error rather than trying to end the point herself.

Even though Kvitova hit many more winners (37 to 22), getting one more ball back in play and absorbing the power from her hard-hitting opponent was the order of the day.

Halep is indeed the total package as she also possesses a strong serving game to complement her clever baseline play. Halep served eight aces and only two double faults for the match and only faced two break points in the last two sets. Halep made 61% of first serves, winning 75% of them and an extremely high 57% on second serves. In the deciding set Halep won an astounding nine of 10 points on her second serve and only dropped three points for the entire set on serve. Halep leads the tournament in aces with 24 from five matches and has only committed seven double faults for the tournament.

She is so good during the point but may be even better between the points with how her mental toughness and refusal to buckle under pressure. In her post match interview she gave some insight into how she approaches the game. "It is an amazing week for me. Today was a very tough match, she played really well but I was fighting every ball and I want to thank everybody because they supported me a lot and also my team and I am really happy tomorrow I play my first Madrid final,"she said.

Halep gets it. She knows she is part of a bigger picture, she knows how to grasp victory from defeat and she knows how important it is to thank those around her who made her meteoric rise possible.

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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