Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 1 October 2020

Q&A with Simona Halep

The National's Ahmed Rizvi talks to Simona Halep on her recent ascent in the rankings, how she views her chances at the Dubai Duty Free Championships and her grand slam aspirations.
Simona Halep is hoping for many happy returns at the Dubai Duty Free Championships. Julian Finney / Getty Images
Simona Halep is hoping for many happy returns at the Dubai Duty Free Championships. Julian Finney / Getty Images

QUESTION: How do you look back at the past 12 months?

ANSWER: “Last year I had a good result during the year, I started in the Australian Open with my first quarter-final grand slam (tournament) finish, then went to Doha and won the title. I played good tennis, came here and was a little bit injured and had to retire, then I played good tennis in Madrid, but the place isn’t the best for me. Then I did my first grand slam final and got more confidence in myself and believe more that I could be among the top players.”

You were ranked No 65 in 2013 and 20 months later, you are No 3 in the world. How did you turn it around?

“I’m working everyday and have changed many things in my mind and game, but the difference is in my mind because I believed more that I could play at the highest level, that I can play well in grand slams, I tried everything to relax my mind and body and play for every match and point.

“I didn’t realise before that my tennis is very good and complete. I just needed time to believe in myself that I can beat top players. Day by day, match by match I got confidence and belief in myself. But I still have to work more in my game and mind as well.”

You have a full Romanian team.

“I believe it’s very tough for someone to understand the mentality of a player from another country, so I prefer to stay with my Romanian guys and sometimes when I feel I need help I can call an available coach.

“In every country it’s different but we are good fighters, we like to work, we are relaxed and very social people and that helps me relax on court.”

How have things changed for you as a player?

“I think everyone is trying to beat me now because I am in the top 10. I was [doing] the same before, when I was in the top 50 and tried to play better tennis than normal against those above me.”

With Serena Williams pulling out, you are the top-ranked player. Do you fancy your chances?

“Every match at this level is tough and everyone is fighting for her own chance. I’m doing the same and I hope to have good results. Serena’s injury has opened this tournament up, now everyone from the top 10 to 15 can win this tournament.

“I am confident, I can say I believe in my chance but I still have to take it match-by-match to see how far I can go. The first round, however, is the worst in every tournament so I have to watch out.

“I can say that I feel a little bit of pressure, but I don’t want to think about it; its about how you play everyday and how far you can go in every tournament, it doesn’t matter what seed you are.”

What are your thoughts on the top half of the draw?

“The draw is OK. If you are the top seed you have no reason to be disappointed. It’s not easy being the top seed, every match is tough, so we’ll see.

“Every tournament is important but this is a big tournament, it’s a tough tournament, so if I can win it will give me more confidence. It’s tough to think before a tournament that you can win. I just want to play it match-by-match and see how good I can be in this tournament.”

Two years ago, you were playing the qualifiers here and now you are the top seed. How does being the top seed sit with you?

“Yes, two years ago I played the qualifiers and now I’m the top seed. It’s a big difference, but I have more experience and had many good results last year.

“I will just try to enjoy the tournament. I don’t want to think that I’m first seed; I just want to take it match-by-match and see how good I can be.

“It doesn’t matter if Serena is here or not, because I think she’s a great champion and I like to play her because I learn from her. My career doesn’t depend on one player in the tournament.”

And what about your grand slam dreams?

“It’s my dream to win a grand slam title. It’s not easy, but I was very close last year. I still have to work hard to have more matches in grand slams because only last year I started to play good. You need experience and a little bit of luck.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

Follow us on twitter at @NatSportlUAE

Updated: February 15, 2015 04:00 AM

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