Fast 5: Simona Halep Can See Clearly Now
By James Henry
(August 19, 2018) CINCINNATI — There’s a reason they say it’s lonely at the top. Success comes with its own challenges.
But Simona Halep, ranked No. 1 in the world and the winner of this year’s French Open, now is comfortable standing at the summit of women’s tennis.
The 26-year-old Romanian is using her past success to fuel future wins. She feels free, especially mentally, to simply play tennis.
“I got more confident that I am able to do big things in tennis. I said that if I reached the No. 1 place in the world, maybe I’m also able to win a Grand Slam, because I won a few tournaments, big tournaments, where I played against the same players,” she said. “So, I said that if I am patient and I keep working hard, it’s gonna happen. I didn’t feel the pressure of being No. 1, and now I don’t feel the pressure of winning a Grand Slam.”
Here are 5 other fast facts Halep shared at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
1. She credits Coach Darren Cahill and his tough love — which included a temporary split last year — for giving her the mindset to be a champion: “I have to give him the credit for that, changing my attitude and being more positive on court and also off court. Of course, it was maybe the toughest moment in my career, losing the coach, because of my attitude, not because I’m not working. It’s a bit frustrating for a player and as a person, as well. I really worked hard in that way, and I improved. I feel like Darren did a very good thing.”
2. Accepting losses is good for winning: “With experience from those moments, I think I got better this year. For sure, they helped me a lot. It was tough last year. Maybe the pressure also being No. 1 in the world, I didn’t know how to manage it. But now I feel different. I feel stronger mentally, and I enjoy more. Even after French Open — it was a big success and my dream came true — I still feel good on court. I can say I’m more relaxed, and I can enjoy more.”
3. Her Grand Slam victory is inspiring a new generation of tennis players in Romania: “It was a big thing. We are a small country. Everyone was actually waiting for this. My fans and the people that were watching tennis in the last four or five years, they were waiting for this success, this title. It’s really big. Just only one lady did it, Virginia Ruzici (at the French Open in 1978), so it’s an amazing thing. I feel like the kids are going more to the tennis now, because I shared with them this success.”
4. Competition — such as her recent win against Sloane Stephens in the final at the Rogers Cup tournament in Montréal — is making her better: “These matches are good. It makes you to get better day by day and match by match. I really am happy about this final and, of course, that I was able to win it. It gives me more confidence and also power inside that I am able to face these tough moments.”
5. Her best tennis is still ahead: “If I was able to win against these good players, it makes me more confident. And I’m also happy that I do the right things. I work in the right way. And I am on court because I love to be there. Even if I won the big title, which I was looking for ever since I was a kid, my desire for tennis is still the same.”