For two world No.1s – one past, one present – to have reached the quarter-finals under the radar speaks volumes for the myriad storylines to have emerged from the women’s singles tournament, as well as their no-nonsense progress. Kerber had not dropped a set en route to the last eight, while Halep, having dropped her opening set of the tournament to Alison Riske, had given up a total of just 14 games ahead of Wednesday’s showdown.
There’s no escaping the spotlight from here on out, however. This was their third Grand Slam showdown; Kerber had edged a tight straight-sets win en route to the final at Wimbledon in 2016, while Halep’s semi-final victory at the Australian Open in January was arguably the match of the tournament, with both players on the brink of collapse after the Romanian prevailed 9-7 in the third.
That day, it was Halep who sprinted out to a 5-0 lead in just 13 minutes, but on Court Suzanne-Lenglen it was Kerber who set the tone. From the outset her forehand carried a venom that proved too much for Halep in the opening exchanges, dictating play and drawing errors to open up a 4-0 lead.
The German’s early tactics were pitch-perfect, hammering flat, punchy drives cross-court early in the rallies that kept Halep on the defensive, but the world No.1 reacted with a tactical switch of her own, rallying down the centre of the court to deny the two-time major winner an angle from which to open up the court.