Simona Halep has branded Karolina Pliskova a worthy world No1 after the Romanian lost her Wimbledon quarter-final to Johanna Konta, missing out on a chance to ascend to the top spot herself.
Halep was one win away from the summit of the rankings but fell 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-4 to home favourite Konta in a 2hr 38min battle on Tuesday.
The No2 seed also had the opportunity to get to No1 had she won her French Open final last month but ended up losing to an inspired Jelena Ostapenko, despite leading by a set and a break.
Asked about Pliskova’s imminent rise to No1 when the new rankings are released on Monday, Halep said: “She’s playing really well. This year she already has few titles won. I feel she deserves to be there. She has the best serve, I think, after Serena. So well done to her. She played really well this year. I think she’s happy now.”
Halep and Konta produced a high-quality affair, playing under the Centre Court roof, on a rainy day at SW19.
The match ended on a sour note as a spectator screamed mid-rally, thinking Halep had hit a long ball, and it distracted the Romanian, who then committed an error and lost the match.
Umpire Kader Nouni would not replay the point.
“I thought he’s going to repeat the point. I think it’s normal to repeat the point when someone is screaming like that,” Halep calmly said after the match when asked about the incident.
Asked why she didn’t protest longer, she added: “Because he said, ‘We cannot replay’. I cannot change anything. So why I should fight?”
The 25-year-old admits it was a frustrating defeat, but “not more than the final in French Open”.
She hit 26 winners against just nine unforced errors through the match and saved six of eight break points she faced.
“I think was close to the best, maybe the best (match I played on grass),” said Halep. “I thought my level was pretty high also hitting the balls, serves, how I served, and also the moving. Maybe I should stay a little bit more closer to the line. But she was hitting pretty strong. I think was a great match. I take the positives.”
Halep continues to suffer near-misses on the grand stage but she remains proud of her performances this fortnight.
Asked what positives she takes from Wimbledon, she said: “That I played so well after disappointing moment in French Open. I was able again to fight till the end. I played well, so my game is there. I’ve been okay.
“These are the positives. I cannot complain about anything because she played well today, and she got the match, she won the match.”
And on the disappointment of once again missing out on getting to No1, she said: “It’s nice to be in the top 10 for so long time. I’m really pleased with my performance. Of course, one of my goals is to get to No1. But I had another chance here. I was close, I could say. But doesn’t affect me that much because I think I have many years ahead. So maybe I will have more chances. I’m close, so I have just to keep working.”
World No8 Svetlana Kuznetsova thinks on-court coaching, which is allowed at WTA tournaments, should be introduced to the Grand Slams, the Russian said following her quarter-final exit at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The two-time major champion fell 6-3, 6-4 to 2015 runner-up Garbine Muguruza, in a match that witnessed an incident that was perceived by Kuznetsova’s coach Carlos Martinez as illegal coaching from the Spaniard’s camp.
Grand Slams do not allow any form of coaching during matches and Kuznetsova said Muguruza was receiving some information from her physio during the match.
“I could hear that because it was pretty clear because we all speak Spanish here. She was talking to her all the time. But it’s her physio. I mean, I know she acts like this all the time. I know that. I don’t think it’s appropriate, but okay, I was focused on my game,” said Kuznetsova of Muguruza.
“My coach says it’s elements of coaching. The thing is, the same umpire gave my coach a warning last year for telling me, ‘Vamos, vamos’. Then this girl was talking to Garbine during the match. She didn’t say anything to her. That probably what surprise him a lot.”
While many players are against on-court coaching, and prefer to stick to the solitary nature of the sport that forces a player to figure things out for themselves while battling through a match, Kuznetsova thinks it makes the sport more appealing for fans and should make its way to the Grand Slams.
“I don’t see why not. I think it’s great these coaches can work more their job. It’s more interesting to the fans. I don’t see why not. I mean, I’m not here to complain, whatever they were doing on the court. Garbine played very good game today. And I think she deserved to win, because I didn’t play so well,” explained Kuznetsova.
The US Open qualifying tournament will experiment with some form of on-court coaching but in a different way to how it’s done on the women’s tour, where coaches visit their players during changeovers.
In New York, the event will experiment with coaching from the stands, mid-match, where players can talk to their coaches if they are on the side from which they’re serving, and can signal back and forth with them, if they are on opposite sides.
On the WTA tour, some coaches cover their microphones so fans on TV cannot hear their conversations with their players during changeovers, which is actually against the rules.
“I think it all started because of the TV. I don’t think (on-court) coaching started because of the players,” said Kuznetsova. “I mean, I think the scheduling is made for the TV. Many times who make the schedule, they don’t care about the players. It’s sad, but it’s true.
“This is a thing. If the fans not going to hear (the on-court coaching visits), it’s not going to be there.
“The same thing, like I finish last night at 7:00 to play doubles. I check the schedule. I was really mad. Because why do I play first, not second? When I ask the question. They said, Because of the TV.
“The TV is more important for the tennis than the players, probably.”
He is the youngest of four Tunisians, across four different generations, taking part in Wimbledon this fortnight and made it through to the boys’ singles second round on Monday.
Meet the 18-year-old Mohamed Ali Bellalouna, who faces No16 seed Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi in the second round on Tuesday.
With Malek Jaziri losing in the first round in both singles and doubles, and Ons Jabeur falling to Svetlana Kuznetsova in her singles opener, Bellalouna and Selima Sfar (in Legends Invitation Doubles) are the last two Arabs standing at SW19.
Here is everything you need to know about the young Tunisian…
He was born in Tunis, to Tunisian parents, and grew up playing there but has an Italian last name.
‘Mohamed Ali Bellalouna’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. He says his friends call him ‘Dali’ because it’s the last letter in ‘Mohamed’ combined with ‘Ali’. I thought it was because his friends considered him an artist (Salvador Dali and all) but turns out that’s not the case.
Bellalouna won the African Championship earlier this year which helped boost his ranking and get him in to the junior Grand Slams. Roland Garros last month was his first and made it to the second round. He’s hoping to go further at Wimbledon this week.
“It feels unbelievable, to be around the professional players, it’s a great atmosphere,” he says.
“It’s unbelievable to see players like Federer, Rafa, Djokovic in front of you. It’s like a dream. It’s very motivating, you have to play good, you can’t play bad, it’s a once in a lifetime experience maybe. I hope to be back one day as a senior. I took a picture with Rafa, I can’t not take a picture with him. He was nice,” says Dali. “I love Rafa.”
“It’s my first time playing on grass, I just practiced for three days I think. But I liked it, the way I play, my style of game, I’m lefty, so I think I’m playing well on it,” he says.
“I live in an ITF centre in Morocco, it’s my second year there. I’m with the ITF team now, the Grand Slam Development Fund Touring Team. It’s great to be at the ITF centre, we have a lot of opportunities there. I used to live in Tunis, play with the federation for the national team,” he explains.”
“The ITF centre is kind of apartments, we live together. It’s for African players. We study there as well, practice, we have a club for us. It’s quite good. It used to be in South Africa and now it’s in Morocco. I get to go home frequently because there are a lot of ITF tournaments in Tunisia.”
Asked how he got into tennis, he said: “I was watching tennis on TV, the French Open, and I liked it so I figured why not try? There aren’t a lot of Arab players of Africans, but I like it.”
“Malek is my idol, and Ons (Jabeur) is a good friend. When we were young, we were playing national tournaments together so she’s always asking about me, and I’m always asking about her. What Malek has done has motivated me a lot and it gave me hope of course. I want to be like Malek one day, playing Grand Slams on the men’s tour,” says Dali.
Dali hasn’t played that many junior tournaments despite the fact that he’s already 18. He’ll start playing Futures next year, and when he finishes his studies at the ITF centre next year, he will have to leave it and go on his own. He made a big leap in the junior rankings from last year until now.
“I just worked hard. It’s hard work and perseverance. Never giving up. I was 200 in the world last year, then I started the year well, won the African Championship, went up in the rankings, and made it into the Slams,” he says.