After a severely disrupted 2021, Simona Halep has enjoyed a successful start to 2022.
The former world number one triumphed at one of the WTA 250 events at the Melbourne Summer Set this weekend, claiming the 23rd singles title of her career.
With just one week away until the Australian Open, Halep is in scintillating form. Could she convert this into Grand Slam glory?
A difficult 2021
Halep has been one of the most formidable players on the women’s circuit for some time now. She held the status of world number one twice between 2017 and 2019, winning the French Open and Wimbledon during that period.
But Halep finished 2021 as the world number 20, the first time since 2014 she did not end a year inside the top five. Her streak of winning at least one title every year since 2013 also came to an end.
Prior to this week in Melbourne, Halep last lifted a trophy at the Italian Open in 2020.
Her decline was largely due to a calf injury, which kept the 30-year-old out of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
As a result, Halep played at 13 tournaments in total last year, but only completed nine.
Time for a comeback
Halep has made it clear she is targeting a return to the world top 10 in 2022.
“This is the main goal and this is actually the only one goal,” she told WTA Insider. “But everything that comes along with it is a bonus and we will see. But the focus is to get back to the top ten.”
The Romanian star certainly seems to be back on her way to the top, impressing at the Melbourne Summer Set.
She defeated Australia’s Destanee Aiava, compatriot Elena-Gabriela Ruse, Viktorija Golubic and Qinwen Zhang on her way to the final, where she met Veronika Kudermetova.
Halep defeated her Russian opponent 6-2, 6-3, winning in one hour and 14 minutes.
Can Simona Halep win the Australian Open?
Halep is certainly in good form heading into the Australian Open, which starts on January 17th, but the Grand Slam will be a far sterner test than the Melbourne Summer Set.
World number one Ashleigh Barty is considered the favourite to win the tournament, and the Australian will have the advantage of a home crowd.
She has also had an excellent start to 2022, triumphing at the Adelaide International over the weekend.
Defending champion Naomi Osaka, world number two Aryna Sabalenka, WTA Finals winner Garbiñe Muguruza and US Open champion Emma Raducanu are among the other contenders in a very strong field.
Hard court is also Halep’s least favoured surface to play on – she is often most successful on clay.
Nonetheless, Halep has extensive Grand Slam experience, and if she is back to full fitness after her calf injury, will certainly be one of the most feared players in the tournament.
A third Grand Slam title may be unlikely, but Halep could well go far in the upcoming Australian Open.