Tue. Sep 17th, 2019

Roland Garros favourite Halep relaxed about title defence

Simona Halep wants to enjoy her Roland Garros experience this year and says there is no pressure on her to defend her title.

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Roland Garros 2018 women’s singles champion Simona Halep has said that the pressure was off ahead of the start of her title defence.

Halep ended a long wait to lift a Grand Slam trophy in Paris last year.

The Romanian beat Sloane Stephens to clinch her maiden major crown in what was her fourth final. Halep is seeded third for the 2019 edition which starts on Sunday but is currently the favourite with bookmakers.

“(It’s) much better and much easier, because I have the title already,” said Halep.

“(It) doesn’t matter anymore what is going to happen. Everything (that) comes now comes as a bonus. So I will try just to give my best and to see if I’m able to do it again.”

Halep had already proven herself on the wider WTA tour ahead of the 2018 triumph, enjoying a few runs as the world number one but without a grand slam she could not be content. The custodians of the cliche were ready to label her ‘not a big match player’ but she finally earned a Grand Slam final win and silenced the doubters.

The 27-year-old believes she may be “too happy” to have put herself in the position of defending champion, with a gruelling fortnight possibly ahead of her. Whatever the outcome she wants to enjoy her time in Paris this year.

“I am too happy to be in this position, I have to admit this. But it’s nothing bad,” she said.

“I will try to do the things (I did) as a kid, enjoying the time. I wanted this badly, and I wanted (it) so much that now having it, I just want to be happy and to smile.”

Halep is yet to win a tournament after final defeats in Doha and earlier this month on clay in Madrid, where she was beaten by in-form Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens. Halep could moved to number one in the rankings with a win in Spain but instead Naomi Osaka heads into the year’s second slam at the top of the pile.

Even without a tournament win Halep’s confidence remains high of another run deep into the Roland Garros draw.

“Going to Madrid… maybe my favourite tournament, because I won two times there and I played two finals, even if I didn’t win the final, I felt that my level was very high.

“I have confidence. I don’t count Rome this year. We leave it back. Coming here, practising, I felt really well.”

Halep will face Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the opening round, with sixth seed Petra Kvitova also in her quarter of the draw.

“It’s going to be a very tough match (against Tomljanovic),” added Halep, also a two-time French Open runner-up.

“She’s powerful. She hits the ball strong. So I have to be ready. I have to focus on myself.”

Tomljanovic reached the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2014 and took Halep to three sets in their only previous meeting at the Cincinnati Open last year.

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