You can’t blame third-seeded Simona Halep for changing her strategy towards harder hitting – she is after all just trying to adapt her game to the way tennis is general evolving into.
But the Romanian’s attempt to keep up with the power-hitters of the WTA backfired as she crashed out of Roland Garros yesterday at the hands of Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni – the same player who ousted her from the US Open third round last September.
Halep, a runner-up in Paris in 2014, became the highest seed to fall in the women's draw as she suffered a heavy 7-5, 6-1 defeat to the 33-year-old Lucic-Baroni, who is through to the third round at Roland Garros for the first time in 14 years.
Lucic-Baroni hit an impressive 29 winners to a mere five from Halep and was overpowering the world No3 throughout the 71-minute affair on Suzanne Lenglen.
"She played well. I couldn’t play my best today. She started to hit the ball very strong at the beginning of the match. So she was better than me today, and I have just to take, you know, this situation to handle it and just to go forward," said a visibly disappointed Halep.
"Maybe I changed a bit the strategy of my practices. I just wanted to hit too strong maybe, and to change the game is not good. I have to play like what I feel on court and just to be like, to create the game.
"So I started to hit the ball too strong, and that is not my style. I don’t feel it, and I don’t handle it. So I have to go back in my game and just to train again how I did till now."
Halep, who had a dream 18 months winning eight title from mid-2013 until the end of 2014, has a game that is based on finesse, tactics, intelligence and choosing when to be aggressive.
Despite picking up titles in Shenzhen, Dubai and Indian Wells this season, Halep has had a disappointing clay swing and she admits a team meeting is in order to examine where things went wrong.
"I still dream for many things in this life and in this career, because I have many years to go, and so if I lost today, it doesn’t mean that I cannot play anymore or I don’t win any more matches. I just want to take the decision to see what I did wrong, what I have to do better, to be better, and to speak with my team, because together we have to decide some things."
On her part, Lucic-Baroni, who next faces home favourite Alize Cornet, was happy to prove to the world that the US Open was no fluke.
"I knew it was going to be really tough. I was going to have to play a great match again and back up sort of what I did at the US Open. Because sometimes people say ‘oh, it’s one day everything went in’, and I don’t look at it like that.
"I know I played really well. I have been working really hard, and I knew today I had to play some great tennis. I was ready for it."
Lucic-Baroni was a teenage prodigy in the ‘90s, making the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1999 beating Monica Seles before falling to Steffi Graf. She stepped away from the game a few years later, announcing she had suffered mental and physical abuse from her father and coach Marinko and accused him and his nephew of stealing prize money from her.
She didn’t reappear on the tour until 2010 and had a dream breakthrough last September when she made the US Open fourth round.
"I’m going to enjoy right now as much as I can. Yeah, I missed a few years, and it’s unfortunate. I feel like I missed my best years, for sure. There is nothing I can do right now. There is no point of thinking about it too much. Just enjoying right now where I am," she says.