Simona Halep is the top seed in one of the most open Wimbledon draws in history, with her and Pliskova the last top ten seeds standing. Serena Williams is also lurking, but the American and Pliskova are both in the other half of the draw. That leaves Halep with a relatively clear run ahead of her if she can play her best tennis, and it will need to start with a win over world #48 Hsieh Su-Wei, a dangerous opponent. Who will come out on top?
This will be just the second time Halep and Hsieh have faced one another, with the solitary other occasion coming at the Cincinnati Masters back in 2013. In that game, Hsieh got off to a good start, winning a tight opening set in a tiebreak, but it was Halep who prevailed, winning 6-7 6-1 6-2. Back then, the two were a little closer in the rankings, with Hsieh in a similar spot to the one she occupies now but Halep sitting outside of the top 20 rather than at the #1 ranking.
Path to the third round
In contrast to her fellow top ten seeds, Halep has been doing things pretty easily so far at this year’s Championships. In the first round, she faced world #100 Kurumi Nara of Japan, racing past the 26-year-old 6-2 6-4. She followed that up with a straightforward victory over world #126 Zheng Saisai of China, who she beat 7-5 6-0. In total so far, she has spent just over two and a half hours on the court at this year’s Wimbledon.
Hsieh faced a tough first round match up against the 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but after a battle lasting over two hours the Chinese advanced to the second round a 6-4 4-6 6-3 victor. That set up a clash with a Lara Arruabarrena, the world #88 from Spain, who was looking to reach the third round at Wimbledon for the first time in her career. But Hsieh denied her in what proved to be a more comfortable victory, as she won through 6-3 6-3 in just over an hour.
How do they match up?
These two have vastly different playing styles. Halep is a defensive counter-puncher first and foremost, using her excellent agility and court coverage to stay in points for far longer than virtually any other player on Tour would be able to. But she has far more powerful groundstrokes than many give her credit for, and is able to turn defence into attack in a single shot, particularly when hitting her forehand on the run, a shot she uses excellently.
Hsieh is unusual in playing with two-hands on both sides. The Chinese imparts comparatively little spin and is generally very unpredictable. The two-handed technique inevitably makes it more difficult for her to defend due to a limited reach, but her awkward style and ability to create angles that other players can’t makes her a difficult match up. She will also force Halep to step in and dictate, perhaps more than the Romanian is comfortable with.
Halep has the clear advantage in terms of talent in this match, and should be able to get over the line. She is playing excellent tennis, and will no doubt be aware of the fortunate draw she potentially has if she can continue to win. Whilst that golden opportunity once may have seen her fold, of late, with her first Grand Slam now won, it is a different Halep. Hsieh is never easy to put away, and will no doubt be up for the fight, but Halep will be too strong and expect her to advance in straight sets.