It’s easy to like Simona Halep.
For starters, she looks like someone in your tennis rec league.
She has also publicly shared her internal battles of achieving at the highest level of a sport in which you can be deemed the best in the world and yet not good enough.
“I’m always looking for perfection, but at the same time I know it doesn’t exist,” said the top-ranked women’s player before the tournament began. “So it’s a little bit weird there, why [am I] thinking about it even though I know it doesn’t exist?”
The world No. 1 was half-perfect Tuesday, and that was enough against China’s Qiang Wang, turning around a shaky first set and cruising in the second to score a 7-5, 6-1 win, becoming the first woman of the day to advance to the quarterfinals.
Halep was soon joined by her next opponent as Petra Martic took advantage of Marketa Vondrousova’s 11th double fault, closing out the match, 6-3, 7-6(4).
Halep improved to 17-1 on the year but it looked in doubt early in her fourth-round match as she struggled on the forehand side, in particular, seemingly benefitting from a visit by her coach, Darren Cahill, by dictating action and reversing unforced errors and winners in the second set.
“I did exactly what he said after that,” Halep said.
In the later matches on Tuesday afternoon, all eyes were on Amanda Anisimova, the 16-year-old American wild card who won her first WTA match in defeating Pauline Parmentier, then polished off No. 23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and two-time Wimbledon champion and No. 9 seed Petra Kvitova en route to the Round of 16, not dropping a set along the way.
On this day, however, No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova was just a little too consistent, defeating Anisimova 6-1, 7-6(2) to advance to a quarterfinal match against Naomi Osaka, a 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 winner over Maria Sakkari.
A five-time quarterfinalist at the WTA Premier Mandatory event, Pliskova advances to the last eight in Indian Wells for the third time in her career, having reached the semifinals each of the past two years.
“I like this tournament so much and I’ve been playing pretty well every year here,” said Pliskova, who advances to the quarters for the eighth time in her career. “It just makes me extra confident to come into this tournament, that I know I can win a few matches here every year. It’s just great that even this year, I’m back in the quarterfinals. I’m going to be ready for it and I want to enjoy.”
Hall of Famer and Tennis Channel analyst Martina Navratilova was among those who were impressed with her fearless play.
“So many things have to still go right for her, but she definitely has the foundation for it,” she told BNPParibasOpen.com on Monday. “I practiced next to her at the US Open last year on the indoor courts, checking her out, and I thought ‘This is the total package.’
“She’s got the look, you know? It’s that intangible you can’t really teach. You see the intensity and the awareness and focus and all that stuff. She’s confident but not cocky, and that’s a fine line between those two. So far so good…She’s playing outstanding tennis period and she’s just getting started, so it’s nice to see.”