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Simona Halep reminded us about Wimbledon’s power

Matt Zemek

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Susan Mullane -- USA TODAY Sports

In 2019, Simona Halep did not finish as the WTA Tour’s year-end No. 1 player, unlike 2017 and 2018.

In 2019, Simona Halep did not make the Roland Garros final, something she did in 2017 and 2018.

In 2019, Simona Halep did not pile up huge numbers of semifinal appearances the way she did in 2018.

In 2019, Simona Halep didn’t win the specific tournaments which have been good to her in the past.

Bad year, right? Underachieving year, right? Wrong. Very wrong.

In 2019, Simona Halep won Wimbledon.

That’s it. That’s the tweet.

It’s not as though Wimbledon “counts” more than other majors. Winning any of the four enables a player who has never previously won a major to rejoice and find that special kind of peace no other feat can provide.

Majors do count just as much in Melbourne, Paris, or New York.

Yet, there’s something about winning at Wimbledon which carries more resonance — not more mathematical value, but more stature, especially when that major doesn’t stand alone.

Entering 2019, Halep had clearly established herself as the world’s foremost clay-court player, based on her Roland Garros championship and back-to-back finals in Paris. Halep made two major finals in 2018, as did Serena Williams. Simona made that other major final on the hardcourts of Australia.

It is true that Halep had previously reached a Wimbledon semifinal, but that was 2014. The tennis world was very different back then. Halep hadn’t returned to the semifinal round since at SW19. If you were to identify the major tournament Halep was going to win after Roland Garros, Wimbledon likely would have been third out of the three possibilities.

Wimbledon has crowned iconic grass-court titans, the elites who pile up trophies inside Centre Court’s Cathedral of Tennis. Navratilova, Graf, Venus, Serena. Borg, Edberg, Becker, Sampras, Federer, Djokovic.

Yet, for every Wimbledon icon, there is another player who doesn’t necessarily become a Wimbledon icon, but who becomes more iconic BECAUSE of winning Wimbledon.

Lleyton Hewitt would have been remembered fondly in Australia solely for his 2001 U.S. Open title, but by winning Wimbledon in 2002, he substantially enlarged his historical footprint.

Andy Murray’s 2012 U.S. Open title was a seminal moment in his career and in the story of British tennis… but it wasn’t Wimbledon.

Angelique Kerber already proved herself as a great tennis player with her Australian and U.S. Open championships… but Wimbledon elevated her into a higher stratosphere.

So it is with Halep, who won the clay-court tournament her career needed in order to become great… and then showed she could win not only on grass, but at the most famous tournament in tennis.

It wasn’t just that Halep won another major, though the difference between two and one is huge. Winning Wimbledon carries a special power in the imagination of those who play and watch tennis.

Yes, an Australian would derive special meaning from a title in Melbourne, and an American would gain the same precious prize in New York, but for most of the people who grow up to be professional tennis players, one word usually rises above the rest: Wimbledon.

Especially for Halep and other Europeans — on a continent which has dominated global tennis this century — winning the second of the two European majors on tennis’s most famous piece of real estate stamps her career with extra degrees of immeasurable glory.

You can identify all the ways in which Simona Halep’s 2019 wasn’t as great as 2018, and that’s perfectly fine as far as it goes.

Yet, Simona Halep won Wimbledon in 2019.

That makes everything else secondary in importance.

Such is the power of Wimbledon.

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Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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