Simona Halep is on home soil this week playing at the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca. On Monday afternoon she spoke to reporters ahead of her campaign about a variety of topics.
The world No.18 paid tribute to Emma Raducanu’s ‘unbelievable’ achievement at the US Open where the Brit became the first qualifier in history to win a major title. Raducanu won 10 matches in a row in New York without dropping a set in what was only her second main draw appearance at a Grand Slam.
”What she achieved is unbelievable and credit to her because she played so well and she was mentally strong through all her matches,” said Halep. “She played very fast tennis and close to the baseline plus she has great movement on the court”.
Halep continued to talk highly of the young 18-year-old and gave her thoughts on what it means for Romania and the future of Romanian tennis. Raducanu’s father was born in the country.
”I think she is able to achieve everything and now she has the experience of winning the biggest tournament in tennis. I think she can become top 10 easily and sooner than everybody thinks,” she stated.
“She has a bright future and she will be one of the best players in the world”.
Hope for fans
Halep was asked to give her opinion on the fact that the tournament will be played without fans due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Romania. Whilst not happy with the decision, she understands that health and safety are the number one priority.
”It’s sad that this decision was taken because they (tournament organisers) did everything right to have fans with the stadium being so big. Personally, I don’t see an issue with that but when it comes to health they decide but hopefully we are waiting to see on a daily basis if it changes and hopefully we can have some fans by the end of the tournament”.
The 30-year-old enters this week with a win-loss record of 18-9 during what has been a rollercoaster season. She was forced to miss almost three months of the Tour between May-August due to a calf injury. Since returning, she has reached the fourth round of the US Open and the quarter-finals of the Kremlin Cup.
”This year was a tough year with the injuries that I suffered and I struggled a lot just to come back but I am happy to be back on the court and happy that I can play again,” Halep reflected.
“I am healthy again and the positives are that I was able to come back and play some tournaments and some matches. It wasn’t easy coming back as I missed 3-4 months and didn’t play an official match. I still struggle but I am super confident next year will be better and I still love the sport and love being on the court”.
Playing on home soil
Halep will face compatriot Gabriela Elena Ruse in the first round. She gave her thoughts on the recent rise of Romanian tennis on the women’s side with six Romanians in the main draw.
”I think it’s a great performance for Romania to have so many girls here and in the top 100 as well. I face a very young opponent who is Romanian and she has played a lot this year and really well so she has a lot of confidence but I have nothing to lose. Romania is in a good place right now in regards to tennis”. She said.
The top seed also spoke about the experience of playing in Romania and how excited she is to play despite the fact there won’t be any fans in the stands.
“ I’m excited to play in Romania, I played two times in Bucharest in 2014 and 2016 and I had great success and in Cluj, the organizers are really good and the conditions are great and hopefully I can feel in a good position for Wednesday”.
The Constanta native was also asked what it would mean to her if she was able to take home the title on home soil.
” It will mean a lot and it will be great to win a title but it’s still early and I want to take it one match at a time and if it happens it will be a huge thing”. She stated.
The Australian Open
A big topic of discussion recently has been the Australian Open who has been going back and forth in regards to who would be allowed in the country and who would be allowed to play.
An email was sent to the players yesterday outlining the latest plans, saying that players who are vaccinated and not vaccinated will have two totally different experiences.
Players who are vaccinated will have total freedom while players who are not will be subject to a hard 14-day quarantine. A move which has received full backing from Halep.
”For me, it was the best news and I am actually looking forward to going and playing in the first grand slam of the year. These decisions are taken by the government of Australia but I am pro-vaccine and I think players should do it if they want because it is much easier if you are vaccinated because you don’t have restrictions”. She concluded.