Simona Halep is in contention for her first U.S. Open title

How Serena Williams’ former coach brought Simona Halep back from the brink of tennis retirement



Dec. 13, 2013 08:22 pm ET

For the first time in her career, Simona Halep is in contention at the U.S. Open.

The 23-year-old, then ranked 19th, had reached the third round of Wimbledon, but had struggled with injuries and a string of bad results. She had slipped to No. 18 after upsetting Venus Williams in the second round at the Australian Open in January before falling to eventual champion Ana Ivanovic in straight sets. She then suffered a second-round knee injury, which she needed surgery to repair.

At the time, even top tennis stars were reluctant to predict that the world No. 24 would still be competing at the year-end championships.

Now at 20 years old, Halep has surged up the rankings to No. 1 and is fighting for her first U.S. Open title. She has become a much bigger draw to the U.S. Open than Serena, because of her game and experience. Halep’s success, including a win at Wimbledon, helped her get her first sponsorship deal and money to spend on improving her game.

At the time, Serena was the best hope to finally return to the top of the sport’s pecking order. Halep had won 22 of her 26 career Grand Slam singles matches, but had never won the U.S. Open. She had been in the top 10 for most of the year, while Serena had missed the cut at the Australian Open and was ranked No. 2.

Her career was in shambles after the U.S. Open last year and she was not expected to win again. But Halep surprised everyone when she surprised everyone by beating Williams in the semifinal. She followed that by upsetting Halep in the

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