Simona Halep: Striving For Greatness

Simona Halep

There’s a famous saying which suggests nothing great ever comes easy. And that is something that resonates with Simona Halep.

After losing in her first three Grand Slam finals, there were some tennis observers who thought winning a major just wasn’t meant to be for Halep. But the newly crowned Wimbledon champion has proven her doubters wrong as she’s now a two-time Grand Slam winner.

Back in 2014, the then-22-year-old made it to the finals of the French Open for the first time and would lose to Maria Sharapova in a very competitive championship match.

It took her three years to get another shot at capturing her first major. At the 2017 French Open, Halep was up a set and 3-0 against little known Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, only to let it slip away.

Then at the 2018 Australian Open, Halep ran into a determined Caroline Wozniacki who outlasted the Romanian to capture her maiden Grand Slam.

Despite the obvious heartache of losing in those three finals, Halep managed to break through at the 2018 French Open to capture that elusive first major. She defeated American Sloane Stephens at Roland Garros to fulfill a childhood dream.

“It’s a special moment. I was dreaming for this moment since I started to play tennis,” said Halep after beating Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

“It’s my favorite Grand Slam. I always said that if I’m going to win one, I want it to be here.”

The Romanian tennis star also spoke about the important contributions of her supporting cast in her quest for greatness on the tennis courts and in making her childhood dream a reality.

“It’s real now, so, yeah, my family was all the time supporting me since I started to play tennis, also all the coaches and all the people that I have worked during these 20 years. Thanks to them, because it’s tough to keep working every day at the highest level,” she pointed out.

But just about five months later, the 2018 French Open champ and her long time coach Darren Cahill announced that they would no longer be working together. That was because Cahill wanted to spend more time with his family instead of touring with Halep.

Their break up did have an impact on Halep’s performance on the tennis courts immediately afterwards.

Based on her standards and expectations, 2019 didn’t start the way the former world No. 1 would have hope for. Besides a disappointing fourth round loss at the Aussie Open to Serena Williams, Halep headed into her defense of the French Open without a tournament win. And at the French Open, Halep would lose to American teenager, Amanda Anisimova in the quarterfinals.

“I feel sad, because every time when I lose, I’m sad. And I’m a little bit upset because I couldn’t (play) my game. I couldn’t move normally,” said Halep candidly after losing to Anisimova in straight sets.

“Coming as a defending champion, the pressure was on,” she admitted.

“Maybe my expectations for myself were big today. Maybe I couldn’t handle the tension in my body so I couldn’t play my best and I couldn’t move at my best level.”

However, Halep definitely found another gear and stepped up her game at Wimbledon. She would only lose one set at the All England club en route to capturing her maiden Wimbledon title.

What’s more impressive was the fact that she defeated 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in convincing fashion, 6-2, 6-2, in the championship match.

“She just played great. I was just trying different things and today nothing really helped,” said Williams in her post match presser.

“When someone plays lights out there’s really not much you can do.”

As she reflected on her remarkable run at the All England club, Halep says she was hungry for success at Wimbledon.

“I wanted this badly when I started the tournament,” she said in her post match presser after beating Williams in straight sets.

“I am happy about what I achieved these two weeks and I can’t describe how I feel about winning Wimbledon – but it’s pretty special.”

Halep also points out that although she and her former coach no longer have a formal working relationship, he’s still very much in her corner.

“Of course Darren is part of this. I talked to him all the time. He came to my match again today. He’s heart is with (my team) and he made me a little bit stronger today honestly to believe that I have the chance to win,” Halep pointed out.

With her dominating display of tennis at Wimbledon, Halep now seems fully adjusted to the new dynamic of her supporting cast after parting ways with her long time coach last November.

And while tennis is very much an individual sport, the two-time Grand Slam champion was quick to speak of the important contributions of those in her corner.

“All of the people that I have on my team are great and they help me to trust in myself that I’m able to achieve good things,” noted the 27-year-old.

Perhaps achieving good things is an understatement given that she just won Wimbledon.  Looking ahead, it’s safe to say that with continued hard work and determination, more great things are in store for the Romanian tennis superstar – including adding more Grand Slam titles to her name.

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