The first notable performance in 2018 was provided by Simona Halep. In early January, the world’s number one tennis player compelled recognition in the Shenzhen tournament. Halep won the singles as well as the doubles event. In the women’s singles, Simona secured a 6-1, 2-6, 6-nil win in the finals she played against Czech challenger Katerina Siniakova. Halep thus took her revenge over Siniakova who in 2016, also in Shenzhen, won the direct match scheduled in the tournament’s round of 16.
In the women’s doubles, Simona Halep and Irina Begu won the finals they played against the all-Czech pair made of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, 1-6, 6-1,10-8.
Then the Australian Open in Melbourne followed, and Simona Halep reached as far as the finals. In the semifinals, Halep grabbed a 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 win against German challenger Angelique Kerber. Halep thus earned 2 million Australian dollars and 1,300 WTA points. In the finals, Danish player Caroline Wozniacki secured a 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 win in the match against Simona Halep.
In late January, in the Champions League in women’s handball, after a long time, CSM Bucharest succeeded a fine home win against Hungarian opponents Gyor, in the debut fixture of the main group stage. CSM defeated Gyor 28 - 22. Norwegian handballer Amanda Kurtovic was CSM’s top scorer, with 8 goals.
In February, table tennis player Bernadette Szocs won the Europa Top-16 tournament held in Montreux, in Switzerland. In the final, Szocs defeated trophy holder, Dutch tennis player Jie Li. Third-placed was another Romanian table tennis player, Elisabeta Samara.
Lawn tennis in February saw two notable results. Romania’s women’s team had no problem defeating Canada, in a FedCup confrontation counting towards the first round of World Group II, hosted by the city of Cluj. In the first singles matches, Sorana Carstea defeated Carol Zhao, 6-2, 6-2, while Irina Begu secured a 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 win against Romanian-born Canadian tennis player Bianca Andreescu. Then in a confrontation which was crucial for the entire match, Irina Begu defeated Katherine Sebov, 6-2, 6-4. The Romanian team has thus qualified for the World Cup playoffs.
In the men’s version, Marius Copil obtained his career’s best. Copil got through to the final of the ATP tournament in Sofia, an event with 500,000 Euros in prize money. However, in the finals Bosnian challenger Mirza Basic defeated Copil, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4.
Concurrently, South Korea’s PyeongChang hosted the 2018 edition of the Winter Olympics. The Romanian delegation’s best performance was provided by Raluca Stramaturaru, who came in 7th in the women’s sledge event. It was the best performance ever to have been registered by a Romanian athlete in winter Olympics since 1994.
In March, Romanian tennis player Horia Tecau won his first tournament in 2018. Jointly with the Dutch Jean-Julien Rojer, Tecau won the ATP tournament in Dubai. Tecau and Rojer secured a 6-2, 7-6 win against the US – Indian pair, made of Jamie Cerretani and Leader Paes. Tecau and Rojer won the tournament in Dubai for the second time around.
Women’s handball provided fans with yet another good reason for satisfaction. Sport Club Municipal Craiova succeeded a heart-throbbing qualification in the EHF Cup semifinals, grabbing a 26-23 away win against Russia’s Lada Togliatti, in the return leg of the competition’s quarterfinals. In the first leg, Lada Togliatti won the game in Craiova, 25-23.
Romania’s capital city Bucharest in late March played host to the European Weightlifting Championships. Romanian weightlifters walked away with 26 medals, of which 9 were gold, 8 silver and 9 bronze. In the 48-kilogram category and the 63-kilogram category, Elena Ramona Andries and Loredana Toma, respectively, won the European titles. In the men’s version of the competition, Nicolae Onica became European champion in the 94-kilogram category.
In April 2018, women’s handball resumed its center-stage position among sports disciplines in Romania, as CSM Bucharest qualified for the Champions League’s Final Four tournament, while Sport Club Municipal Craiova booked a place in the EHF Cup final, having secured 23-22 win and an 18-ll draw in the tie against Turkey’s Kastamonu.
The Romanian women’s tennis side regained its position among the world’s elite teams. In the qualification playoffs for FedCup’s first World Group, Romania defeated Switzerland, 3-1. In the first match, WTA No 1 Simona Halep secured a 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 win against Swiss opponent Viktorija Golubic. In the following game, Irina Camelia Begu defeated Timea Bacsinsky, 6-4, 6-1. The second day of the match brought the decisive winning point for the Romanian team, as Simona Halep secured a laid-back 6-2, 6-1 win against Swiss veteran player, 39-year old Patty Schnyder. The doubles confrontation was a no-stake game: Swiss pair made of Viktorija Golubic and Jil Teichmann secured a nil-6, 6-nil, 10-6 win against Romania’s Sorana Carstea and Mihaela Buzarnescu.
We move on to the month of May. At the European Wrestling Championships held in Russia, Romanian wrestlers walked away with five medals. In the Greek-Roman style, Mihai Mihut won gold in the 63-kilogram category, while Alin – Alexuc Ciurariu won bronze in the 130-kilogram category. In freestyle, Alina Vuc came in 2nd, in the 50-kilogram category. Alexandra Nicoleta Anghel stepped onto the 3-rd step of the podium in the 72-kilogram category. Also 3rd came Ivan Guidea, in the 61-kilogram category.
In women’s handball, Sport Club Municipal Craiova won the EHF Cup for the first time. In the finals, SCM outclassed Norway’s Vipers Kristiansand, 22-26 away and 39-35 at home. In the Champions League, CSM Bucharest came in third in the Final Four tournament in Budapest. In the semifinal, CSM Bucharest sustained a 25-20 defeat by Hungarian side Gyor. Then in the 3rd-place confrontation, CSM outperformed Rostov Don, 31-30.
In men’s handball and also in May, Potaissa Turda for the first time ever won the Challenge Cup. In the first leg of the finals against Greek side AEK Athens, Potaissa trashed their opponents at home, 33-22. In the return leg, AEK secured a 27-26 win, but on aggregate, Potaissa emerged as winners. In was the second Challenge Cup final in a row, played by Potaissa Turda. We recall that in 2017 Potaissa were defeated by Portuguese challengers Sporting Lisbon.
Since June 2018, Romania is holder of a new European kayak-canoe title. In the double canoe 500m race, Leonid Carp and Victor Mihalachi won the title at the European Championships held in Belgrade. We recall that in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv in 2017, Carp and Mihalachi came in 2nd in the same race. The Romanian pair won silver in the 1,000m race, which is an Olympic event. Winners of the race were Germany’s Yul Oeltze and Peter Kretschmer, world champions, after an extremely fast race. The Romanians were less than half a second away from winning the race.
In June 2018, the major performance was Simona Halep’s win in Roland Garros. Halep secured a 3-6, 5-4, 6-1 win against US challenger Sloane Stephen. Simona Halep has thus won the first Grand Slam tournament of her career.