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Beyond the Baseline

Photos: Is Simona Halep the most graceful player on the women's tour?

Simona-Halep-2 Simona Halep plays Svetlana Kuznetsova for a spot in the French Open semifinals. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

PARIS -- It seems like every player has their signature shot and trademark photo -- the clothing and locations may change, but the pose stays the same.

For Rafael Nadal it's his scrunched up face as he unloads on his forehand. Maria Sharapova has the shrieking face as she follows through on the shot. Serena Williams vacillates between a completely placid expression as she hits a forehand to a look of pure fury on the backhand. Roger Federer looks like he's deciding whether to watch Mad Men or take the dog for a walk regardless of his shot. All that is to say, it takes a lot to make me stop mindlessly scrolling through photos and take notice. Thanks to Simona Halep, that's precisely what happened this week.

I've watched Halep play a lot of matches over the course of her career, but her last 12 months have been a revelation. It's not easy to explain to people why Halep is so good, but talk to any regular tennis commentator and they can't help but wax poetic about her.

The ATP World Feed's Nick Lester described her as "cerebral" last week. The words "intelligent", "tactician" and "suffocating" were used as well. She's the WTA indie pick. She's the anti-diva. She doesn't make a peep when she plays. She doesn't cut a physically intimidating presence like most of the top women on tour. Ask her a question, and she'll look you in the eye and give you a straight answer. And the best thing is, you believe her. There's not a lick of nonsense about her.

Which brings me back to the photo wire. In the sea of scrambling bodies set against a burnt-orange backdrop, there was Halep. In nearly every shot she was incredibly balanced, focused and serene. There didn't appear to be an ounce of stress or concern on her face in the photos that had her running and sliding all around the court, and that's a rare thing.

Photos don't tell the whole story, but they certainly tell part of it, and with Halep there are no extraneous movements or superfluous movement. Watch her game live and you'll see the same thing. It's hard to describe her game because everything about her tennis just makes sense. And how do you describe air other than to say it's refreshing?

It got me to thinking: Is Simona Halep the most graceful player on the women's tour? Take a look at some of her photos from the last week, watch her play Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, and then decide.

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Even her racket throws are on point.

All photos via Getty Images.
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