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At the Net: Halep's heatin' up

12:09 PM, Jul 17, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Can you guess who's the hottest player in women's tennis right now?

Me neither.

Actually, if you went with Simona Halep, you'd be correct!

At the time of this article, the 21-year-old Romanian was seeded second at a tournament in Sweden, where she opened her stay with a sizzling 17th match win in 18 tries.

Since falling at the hands of nifty Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round at the French Open in the last week of May, the surging Halep has captured the first three titles of her now-blossoming career.

She tallied career title No. 1 at a clay court event in Nuremberg, Germany, then captured a second straight championship on some grass at a Wimbledon tune-up in the Netherlands.

Unfortunately for Simona, her most recent trip to Wimbledon produced only a second-round result, where there was no shame in losing to currently fifth- ranked, former French Open champion, and 2013 Australian Open runner-up Li Na. And, again, in the category of unfortunate, Halep dropped to 1-3 in her '13 Grand Slam outings.

Note: Halep has reached the third round only once in 13 Grand Slam events.

But following Wimbledon, she basically picked up where she left off at the smaller tourneys with yet another title, last week in Budapest. That's three titles in four events, if you're counting at home, after having failed to produce one title in her first 3 1/2 years on the circuit and going 0-3 in her previous finals.

Another Note: A 2008 French Open junior champion, Halep has captured six titles at the ITF level (tennis' minor leagues).

The 5-foot-6 Romanian, whose father runs a cheese and milk factory back home, sees herself as an "aggressive baseliner" with potent groundstrokes. In a post-match interview at Wimbledon two years ago, Serena Williams said Halep "serves well for her height and has so much power on her serve."

The Costanta native, who became a regular on the WTA in 2010, is perhaps best known for having breast reduction surgery (at least in tennis circles).

When Halep was 17, she decided that her large bust was interfering with her tennis and underwent a mastopexy to reduce her chest size from 34DD to 34C.

Of course there was some criticism of her decision to reduce her bust in order to improve her game. Fans actually petitioned Halep to reconsider the decision, but she said she would have had the surgery even if she had not been a professional tennis player, claiming, among other things, that her breasts were the cause of chronic back pain.

But since the surgery, Halep has steadily climbed the rankings and is currently a career-best No. 23 in the world.

She is, however, gonna have to start playing better at the Slams and against the world's top women. Simona's a combined 14-31 lifetime against top-10 competition, including 0-6 against the "Big Three" -- Serena, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. Of course a lot of players have taken an 0-for against those three.

Is Halep good enough to make a run into the Top 10? Why not! She doesn't exactly have the "who's who" of tennis between her (No. 23) and the Top 10. I can certainly see her overtaking the likes of Suarez Navarro, Kirsten Flipkens, Roberta Vinci, etc., etc.

The Sports Network

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