Tennis

Champions Corner: ‘It hurt me’ – How Halep’s French Open nightmare fueled her Wimbledon dream

WIMBLEDON, England – Wimbledon champion Simona Halep joined the WTA Insider Podcast after her stunning final performance of the fortnight. On Saturday, Halep became the first Romanian to win the Wimbledon singles title, defeating Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in a 56-minute masterclass on Centre Court to become a two-time major champion and book her return to the Top 5 on Monday. 

Halep and Wimbledon seemed an unlikely match just two weeks ago. Despite having made the semifinals in 2014 and the quarterfinals in two of the last three years, Halep arrived at the All England Club smarting from her quiet quarterfinal exit from Roland Garros to 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova. That 6-2, 6-4 loss ended her title defense in Paris, and the 27-year-old said it flipped a switch inside her.

“It hurt me because I played it wrong and I didn’t play what I had to play against her,” Halep said on the WTA Insider Podcast. “I didn’t think that much during that match and I got really upset at myself.

“After that match, I said that OK, now it’s time to go back to work and to realize what I’m doing on court. So I did that.

“I worked hard and I was ready to face tough moments, to face big challenges, and this tournament I had the opportunity to have all of them. I just showed myself that I am able to do great things if I am positive and if I realize exactly what I have to do.”

Hear Halep’s full interview on the WTA Insider Podcast below: 

On whether she played out of her comfort zone to win Wimbledon:

“I didn’t feel that it was not a comfort zone honestly, because I started to feel the ball and the game since the first round. So now it felt a little bit normal that I have to be aggressive. I had it very well set in my mind that I have to do that, so I didn’t even think that I have to do something else. It was coming natural and it was coming with confidence.

“If you have confidence you can do anything you think of. So I did that and being aggressive this tournament, it was something normal and I felt it so well that it looked like I had it the whole life.”

On the turning point of her tournament: 

“[The win over Zhang Shuai in the quarterfinals] was very important. I had maybe the most nervous feeling that I had during this tournament because she beat me before and I don’t really like to play against her, I have to admit. That was the turning point of this tournament for sure when I was coming back from 1-4. I felt that now I’m confident and I’m stable on my mental part and also my physical.”

“I started to feel like that after I beat Svitolina in the semis. It was a great match and a tough match, even if the score looked easy. And I knew that physically and mentally I’m ready to face Serena.”

On how differently match point felt at the 2018 French Open compared to 2019 Wimbledon:

“Different, totally different. The pressure was much bigger in the French Open.  The desire was really crazy and the fact that was my first Grand Slam was special. The last point of that match was a little bit more like emotional. 

“Here I was more relaxed. But also that I was facing Serena and they had nothing to lose. I said that if I’m going to win, it’s gonna be something huge. If I lose it’s normal. So I didn’t think about the result that much. So it helped me to be more relaxed on court.

“And the celebration here, I didn’t really think about it because it was so far to even, if I was one match away, to think about that, and also I wanted to make my words for the speech. But I said no, because I’m gonna forget everything and I’m gonna stress myself too much. So I didn’t think of anything at all.”

On now targeting the hardcourt Slams:

“Yeah, it changes a little bit in my head because now I’m able to play on grass, and winning here makes me feel more confident that I’m able to change some things in my game and I can improve them still and be better on hardcourts.

“So everything I have in my mind now is how to improve to be a better person on hardcourts and also to mix this game. It’s pretty amazing that I’m able to do it and improving things is everything I want in the next years. So we’ll see what is going to happen.”

On her ‘stressful’ preparation for Sunday’s Champions’ Dinner:

“I am really stressed if I have to dance. [Kerber danced] because Novak asked, I heard. So if the boy will ask me I have to go. I’m really stressed. But I hope I’m gonna be okay. I’m gonna be fine and I will enjoy the night.”

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