Women’s world No. 1 Simona Halep was at the top of her game for the first half of the year, reaching the final of the Australian Open for the first time, and winning her maiden Grand Slam at the French Open in June when she beat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
But the 26-year-old Romanian’s form dipped significantly after that, as she crashed out in the third and first rounds at Wimbledon and the US Open respectively.
While Halep acknowledged that the emotional high of winning her first Grand Slam took its toll at Wimbledon, she insisted in a media conference call yesterday that she has not taken her foot off the pedal.
“I’m still hungry. Winning my first Grand Slam was special but it’s still only one Slam, so I don’t feel like I have lost any motivation,” said Halep, who has qualified for the Oct 21-28 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“I know now how tough it is to win one so I just have to work hard and keep believing.
“It’s always tough to play on the grass and at Wimbledon I was a little tired emotionally (after winning the French Open) but I don’t think it was that much of a disaster because I won (the Rogers Cup) in Montreal and reached the final in Cincinnati after that.”
The 1.68m right-handed player acknowledged that her victory at Roland Garros has taken some pressure off her shoulders.
I don’t really want to comment on this but I don’t feel a difference (in officiating) between the men and women. Rules are rules. Everyone gets the same thing. When I smashed my racket, I got fined.
SIMONA HALEP, on the US Open final bust-up between American Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos
“My dream for many years was to be No. 1 but after that I was even more motivated for my next goal, which was to win a Grand Slam. Because if you don’t have a Slam, then you’re not a real No. 1,” said Halep, who is the only player to have qualified for all five editions of the WTA Finals Singapore.
“Now I feel good, more relaxed. I’m just trying to keep myself at a high level and win every match I play. The pressure is off and I can just enjoy the pleasure of playing.”
She is aiming to cap her season with a win at the season-ending WTA Finals Singapore, which will move to Shenzhen next year.
Halep and Angelique Kerber are the only two players to have secured their spots this year.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova is third in the Porsche Race to Singapore while Haitian-Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka, fresh off her US Open victory, is fourth as the WTA season heads into its Asian leg with tournaments in South Korea and China.
Halep said: “Singapore is beautiful and it’s not a bad idea to have a tournament there (after the WTA Finals departs). The court is pretty slow which always makes it tough to play on but other than that everything is really nice.
“For me it’s the fifth time now and of course I want to win it.”