18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert has backed World No.1 Simona Halep’s chances to win her maiden major title at next week’s Australian Open. She said, “I feel like Simona Halep had such a disappointing 2017 in the majors, and I feel she is determined to turn that around. She had a heartbreaking 2017 in all the majors. I just feel like she’s playing the best tennis right now, playing the most solid tennis.”
At the 2017 French Open, Halep was three games from Grand Slam glory. but enjoyed a confident start to 2018, going undefeated in both singles and doubles at the Shenzhen Open. Evert continued, “I think she has good training. In the fall, with every interview I see, every time I see her on TV or Twitter, she has a big smile on her face. I think she’s personally in a good frame of mind. She’s liking being No. 1. She’s enjoying that. She’s embracing it. She’s not fearful of it. I say that, again, without 100% conviction, but I’m going to have to pick her as my favorite.”
Evert did not discount Halep’s Roland Garros opponent Jelena Ostapenko, who went on to end 2017 ranked in the world’s Top 8. “Definitely she was not a flash in the pan. She’s one to stay.” Halep may be the top seed, but Evert and fellow commentator Patrick McEnroe noted the unpredictability in the women’s draw.
McEnroe said, “We were so used to the women’s tour being dominated by a couple of players. The women’s side is completely wide open. You can make a case for multiple players that have a chance to win it.”
Chris Evert added, “Everybody has a story. That’s what’s making it interesting and intriguing, everybody from [Karolina] Pliskova, to Ostapenko, to Caroline Garcia. [Caroline] Wozniacki would make a lot of people happy if she won her first Grand Slam. There’s just a lot of talent. I said that last year when Serena wasn’t playing, but it’s doubled this year.”
The former World No.1 argued that the current field occupies a third category, one that can not only boost entertainment value, but also bring in new fans. “You’ve got three great scenarios in tennis that we’ve seen. You have great rivalries. Then when Serena was dominant, everyone was saying, Isn’t it bad for the game, she’s dominating, there aren’t any rivalries? Well, no, because our TV ratings were the highest when Serena Williams was playing because she was a dominant player, and she has gone down in history as one of the greatest athletes we’ve ever seen.
“Now you have a third scenario where you have a multitude of players who can win a Grand Slam, which makes it even more I think exciting and interesting and intriguing. Who is going to win the Grand Slam? There’s one of 20 to 25 players that can win a Grand Slam. You have three great ways to look at the game right now, and we just happen to be in the third area where it’s like a guessing game, but it’s very intriguing.”