May 25th, 2015
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It is usually a bit of a come-down affair the week following a Grand Slam, but there is still some great tennis action and it is usually a pretty good chance to get behind a good outsider.
There are two tournaments on the WTA running this week, and one of them is on the red clay at the Bucharest Open, Romania and another clay court affair in Bad Gastein, Austria. Both have another similarity going as well, because both tournaments have a big name at the head of the field, trading as a big favourite.
Number three seed Simona Halep is a massive 4/6 odds on favourite to reign in Bucharest, while claycourt specialist Sara Errani is running at 11/4 to take the title in Bad Gastein. That is where the similarities between the two tournaments end, because the Austrian event, played in stunning scenery, has been going since 2007 and there is some history to look back upon, whereas Bucharest will launch its inaugural event this year.
This is the first time that the WTA has ran a tournament in Romania, and fortunately, they have one of the best players in the world at the moment, with Romanian star Simona Halep coming in to headline the event. While it was Monica Niculescu who brought big cheer to the home crowds with a win over Klara Koukalova on the opening day, the arrival of Halep on the scene when she opens her account against Lucky Loser Indy de Vroome should create a whole different kind of buzz.
The benefit of having a home grown world star attending an inaugural event, really puts the icing on the cake and helps to lend weight to the tournament. There is the extra attention drawn and while the event is in one of the worst possible slots in the calendar year, coming straight off the back of the Wimbledon Grand Slam, it is commendable that Halep, who was a semifinalist at SW19 was prepared to produce an immediate turn around and lend her support in getting her home event off the ground.
Halep, who was born in Constanta, Romania has had a remarkable year, and the signs were there twelve months ago that it may happen. Back in 2013 she won all of her first six WTA career titles in that one season for a breakthrough year of epic proportions. While the titles haven’t been converted as easily this year, it has not stopped her progress onwards and upwards, with the 22 year old currently holding rank as the third best player in the world.
A quarter final run at the Australian Open was followed by a run to the final of the French Open and then that solid run to the semi’s of Wimbledon. Romania has potentially, a future Grand Slam champion on their hands. She has claimed one WTA title this year, and encompassing the drop down in level to this tournament, she should, on paper, cruise to this title.
But it is post-Wimbledon, so there has to be a degree of tiredness. But she has proven herself so well on clay this year, not only at the French Open, but in an appearance in the final of Madrid, losing both times against Maria Sharapova. But this is where Romania need her. A title win in the first ever Tour event in Romania by a Romanian would do untold wonders for the tournament. It is unlikely, given the aggression on court that Halep plays with, that she will give nothing less than 100%.