Simona Halep discusses how she's learning to be "kind" to herself on court, and how that has helped her become No. 1 in the world.
“How many weeks has it been since then? So I can say that now I am recovered,” the world No. 1 jokingly told reporters at Indian Wells on Wednesday. “It was tough.”
The Romanian has suffered two Grand Slam final defeats within the last nine months but has come out on the other side stronger and wiser.
She’s the top seed at Indian Wells this fortnight, where she opens her campaign against Kristyna Pliskova in the second round on Friday, and is coming off a three-week break she needed to recover from a foot injury.
Halep used the break to unwind both mentally and physically, following a draining Australian Open that saw her save match points in two different matches en route to the final. She did that while nursing an ankle and foot problem.
The 26-year-old then played Doha, where she pulled out of the tournament before her semi-final match because of her foot.
She’s been practicing at Indian Wells looking to get back to business and while she says she’s not 100 per cent just yet, Halep feels she’s “close” to her best level.
“When I came [to Indian Wells] I was a bit upset and sad on court because I didn’t feel the ball straightaway but my coach Darren [Cahill] told me ‘you were out for about three weeks so it’s normal to be up and down’,” Halep said.
It’s no secret that Halep can come down really hard on herself but she’s been working with a sports psychologist on that very issue to make sure she finds the balance between seeking perfection, while still cutting herself some slack.
“I’m always looking for perfection but at the same time I know it doesn’t exist. So it’s a little bit weird there, why I’m thinking about it, even though I know it doesn’t exist?” said a stumped Halep.
“But now I have worked with someone in this direction to be kind with myself and to understand myself that sometimes I cannot be 100 per cent on court and I just need some time. So I’m doing well in that direction and that’s why maybe I got to No. 1.”
This fortnight at Indian Wells, Halep will extend her reign at the top of the rankings to a total of 19 weeks. If she keeps the No.1 spot until after Miami, she will equal Maria Sharapova’s tally of 21 weeks at the summit.
Halep captured the No. 1 ranking for the first time last October and ended the season at the helm.
“I have learned that I’m able to do great things. Of course it was one of my dreams to get to No. 1 but I never believed 100 per cent that I’m able to do that and after I did it, it was like a relief and it gave me power that I can go ahead and do better things,” she explains.
“So I’m thinking now that everything is open and I’m able to do anything.”
The No. 1 ranking has switched hands multiple times over the past 14 months and Halep has already lost it and regained it this season, swapping positions with currently No. 2 Wozniacki.
Wozniacki could unseat Halep again after Indian Wells but she would have to either reach the final or win the title, depending on the Romanian’s results here.
Asked what it meant for the WTA tour that the top spot is moving around between multiple players, Halep said: “It means that all the girls from top-10 are really good and the level is similar. Every tournament is open and it’s more interesting in my opinion.
“We have more fun like that – changing the No. 1 more. I’m not saying that it was a boring thing Serena winning everything and being No. 1 all the time because she’s a great champion but now is different and I feel it’s more interesting, that’s the word.”