Simona Halep tries to draw straight lines

Simona Halep’s career is not represented by a straight line. This is not a career in which the shortest, most direct path to success is the one the athlete followed. Halep and any other elite athlete would obviously choose such a path, but it is not the one presented to Halep.

Sure, athletes take great satisfaction when the indirect path — detours, interruptions, and exit ramps — does not prevent them from achieving their ultimate goals. Halep has triumphed over adversity many times — sometimes over herself, sometimes over injuries, sometimes over inspired opponents. Facing a tough road magnifies Halep’s achievements, as it does for other athletes who were denied the straight and direct path to glory.

Yet, we have come to a point in Halep’s tennis journey where the straight line is not only more desirable; it is necessary. After beating Beatriz Haddad Maia for the Toronto championship on Sunday, Halep is in a situation where everything is lining up for her.

She is No. 6 in the world, primed for a top-8 seed at the U.S. Open. Unless she gets Iga Swiatek’s quarter of the draw, she should have an excellent chance at a semifinal-or-better run.

Halep is playing well, winning Toronto after reaching the Wimbledon semifinals. On a tour where most of the top 10 is underperforming, Halep is a cut above a majority of her fellow top-10 residents.

Finally and crucially, Halep is healthy. This is the key piece to a straight-line formula for her.

Halep had played well in the weeks preceding other majors from the past. Situations were lining up for her, only for an injury to shatter her plans, particularly at Roland Garros. Heading into the U.S. Open, Halep’s outlook is promising as long as Swiatek is not in her quarter. If she gets that one piece of good fortune, so much else is pointing in her direction.

Will the straight-line path finally emerge? As Halep gets older, she doesn’t have as much time for the detours she dealt with in the past. The lines need to be aligned — and remain aligned — if Simona Halep is to be in line for her first hardcourt major championship.

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