In this year’s turbulent Wimbledon women’s draw, Simona Halep looks as steady as she has ever been.
The Romanian star outclassed world No.4 Paula Badosa on Monday for the loss of just three games on Centre Court, sealing a spot in the quarterfinals without losing a set all fortnight.
Halep, whose last Centre Court appearance was her 2019 final domination of Serena Williams, has now won 11 straight matches at the All England Club.
She needed only 60 minutes to reach a 16th career major quarterfinal, improving her season-win loss record to 30-8.
“I'm really happy with the way I'm playing. I'm really confident. It's a pleasure to be on court,” said the 30-year-old, currently ranked 18th.
“I think this helps me a lot to be able to do my best tennis. And everything comes together. I feel strong physically. I feel very good mentally. I feel I have power on court.
“I worked really hard in the past two, three months. I'm really happy with all that I've done. That's why I'm starting to play better and better.
“I got the confidence. I really feel this is my game.”
Such comments could stoke fear in her fellow quarterfinalists, for of the eight players remaining, Halep is already, by far, the most decorated.
The former world No.1 is a two-time major champion, preceding that Wimbledon 2019 triumph with her Grand Slam title breakthrough at Roland Garros in 2018.
Nobody else left in the women’s draw has reached a Grand Slam final, and only one has appeared in a major semifinal.
That player is Halep’s next opponent, Amanda Anisimova, who famously ended Halep’s title defence in the 2019 Roland Garros quarterfinals in what remains a career-best performance.
Since then, Halep has resoundingly avenged that loss.
When they met again at Roland Garros in 2020, Halep decimated the young American 6-0 6-1.
They also played just over a week ago in the Bad Homburg quarterfinals on grass, a match Halep controlled 6-2 6-1.
What is so impressive about Halep’s level this fortnight is that she has attained it after one of the more deflating seasons of her storied career.
In 2021 she suffered a freak calf tear in Rome that forced her to skip both Roland Garros and Wimbledon; she ultimately missed three months of competition and fell outside the top 10 for the first time since 2014.
Such was her descent that she also contemplated retirement.
“It means a lot that I'm back in a quarterfinals after I struggled so much with injuries and self-confidence,” she admitted.
“It started with the injury, so I was not able to play for three, four months. Then I lost also the confidence, the belief that I can be good again, in the top.
“I struggled like a long period.”
Missing last year’s Wimbledon was especially tough for the 2019 champion, given the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But she has enjoyed a happy return to the All England Club three years later – and does not want to leave just yet.
“I'm sure that I can play good tennis again. But it's going to be a big challenge. It's quarterfinals at Wimbledon,” she said of facing Anisimova.
“I'm ready for it and I'm looking forward for it.”