It wasn’t the greatest match ever played – far from it – but one Simona Halep won’t soon forget. The 23-year-old Halep won her first Premier Mandatory WTA title at Indian Wells yesterday outlasting former champion Jelena Jankovic 26, 75, 64.
It was Halep’s 11th title of her career and third on the season. The Romanian, who benefited from Serena Williams’s withdrawal from the semifinals, also moves her to the top spot in the WTA Road to Singapore:
1 Simona Halep 2610
2 Serena Williams 2390
3 Maria Sharapova 2000
4 Karolina Pliskova 1435
5 Carla Suarez Navarro 1105
6 Ekatarina Makarova 1091
7 Timea Bacsinszky 1085
8 Caroline Wozniacki 1046
Halep, who made the semifinals at Indian Wells last year, finished the event winning four of her five matches in three sets. But just before the tournament began she suffered a family tragedy when her cousin committed suicide in Romania.
The trophy was so big, Halep couldn’t even lift it:
Here’s what she told the press after:
Q. Now that the week is all over, can you reflect what’s happened for you in the last couple of weeks and how tough this tournament was to win?
SIMONA HALEP: First of all, I don’t know how I won today because I didn’t play my best. I didn’t play like good tennis, but I just wanted to fight till the end because I think that is the most important thing for my style, for myself.
So she played great tennis today. All the tournament she played amazing. She’s amazing because she’s running a lot and she has a lot of experience.
But, you know, this tournament wasn’t like ‑‑I didn’t play my best tennis, but every match was very important for me, for my mind, for my mentally.
I just had the confidence that I have my chance here this tournament, and I just did everything to get it.
I got it, and I’m really happy that I have another title.
Q. (Question regarding Makarova match in Australia; Photographer interference.)
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, I said many times I was very disappointed after that match. I said I will fight till the end always, and that was the last match where I didn’t fight.
So that made me more confident that I can‑‑ more confident, more courage to go ahead and to take the chance every time during the matches.
After that, I just wanted to play more aggressive, to stay concentrated, and to be focused for every ball.
Here I did a great job, I think, and I can say that every match was really difficult. I lost many sets here.
Q. What were you thinking? What were you feeling as the match went up and down, service break after service break?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, in the end I think it was like we were tight, both of them, and we could not serve very strong.
Yeah, the women’s is not like real important, the serve, you know. We have much better for the returns. I am much better, I can say. Yeah, at the beginning of the match, first set was strange for me because I didn’t play for three days a match. It’s really tough to go straight to the finals.
She played really well. She was like very concentrated at the beginning, like for first point. Yeah, everything went good in her way, and then I just wanted to stay focused. I had only positive things in my mind that I can go till the end to fight and to win.
Q. Have you ever grunted that much on the court, made that much noise? You were making a lot of noise after every shot.
SIMONA HALEP: I make a lot of noise?
SIMONA HALEP: Me?
Q. Just today, yeah.
SIMONA HALEP: Today I did? I don’t remember. (Smiling.) I am too tired. It was like it came from inside, so everything I did was good because I won. I’m not upset now.
Q. You were facing a lot of high shots. She was throwing up a lot of spins, forehand slices, and things like that. Did you change anything tactically as you…
SIMONA HALEP: She knew how to play me today to make more mistakes.
Yeah, it was difficult for me to take that balls very high and without power, so I did many mistakes with my forehand.
But my coach came on court and he said that I’m rushing at that balls. So I said, Okay, I understand, and I go now to play not very strong those balls.
I just try to, you know, to stay cool, to make her run a lot. I know that she’s running well, but still my backhand down the line was good today. Forehand so so. Everything went well, and, you know, I have no comments now. I have like, in my mind, it’s like ‑‑ I have another title, my biggest title now, so it’s amazing. I feel great.
Q. How is your foot?
SIMONA HALEP: Don’t ask me, please. (Smiling.)
Q. Do you think you’re going to play Miami?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, yeah, I will play. I have only blisters and some muscle pain because I am tired.
Q. As you said, this is the biggest title for your career. It’s too early to talk about, but the No. 1 spot for the Road to Singapore, does it mean anything to you?
SIMONA HALEP: I don’t want to think about that because it’s far away, Singapore, so I have many more tournaments to play.
I just want to think for the next one. We will see in the end if I can go there in Singapore and if I can play like last year, because it was a great tournament.
I’m happy now, and I just want to enjoy the moment. I don’t want to think about the other titles or other winnings, just the moment.
Q. $900,000 is a lot of money even for a tennis player. Any plans on what you’d maybe like to buy or spend it on?
SIMONA HALEP: I did not have time to think about this because I see the physio and I came straight here. I will think about this, and for sure I will get a gift for myself. I don’t know what.
Q. Was there something you were dealing with? Seemed times you were bent over. Seemed like you were hurt. You had the doctors look at your foot. Were there any problems?
SIMONA HALEP: No, I was tired a little bit and I had blisters only, so it’s not that bad. But still it’s bothering you during the match, during the running.
In the second set, I think in the end of the second set I had muscle problems. I don’t remember very well.
But, you know, I didn’t think about anything. I just wanted to fight and to get like to win every ball. Just this was in my mind.
Q. You said that you didn’t play well today, but in terms of winning, you just won a premier mandatory tournament without playing your best tennis throughout the past weeks. Does that give you confidence, maybe relax you going forward, that you don’t have to play your best all the time?
SIMONA HALEP: You know, you cannot play your best tennis and then you fight like I did today. So it’s compensating. Sometimes you can fight till the end and sometimes you play good and you cannot fight.
In Australia I think I played good tennis, but I couldn’t fight. So for me, the most important thing, like I said, it’s just to have this feeling to fight till the end.
This tournament gives me a lot of confidence that I can be there, I can win every tournament, so now I have more confidence that I can win a Grand Slam.
But still I am very far, and I just want to keep this goal in my mind.
Q. Then before the tournament how close were you to not playing Indian Wells? Was it never a thought? You always were going to play?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah. I always said I would play Indian Wells.
Q. Last year you talked about having the goal of making Singapore really kind of strong in your mind. Do you have any goals this year in your mind?
SIMONA HALEP: To go to Singapore. (Smiling.) That’s the only one. And in my career to win a Grand Slam.
Q. You haven’t had chance to play Serena or Maria this season. Winning two big titles in a row, does it give you more desire to play against them later this year?
SIMONA HALEP: You know, I’m not afraid to play against them. When I came here, after my first match I said that I want to play in semifinals with Serena again, because I wanted to see where I am and how I stay on court.
I didn’t have the chance. I was so sorry for her because of injury. It’s really important in your career. So she had to retire.
You know, I just want to go ahead and just to take match by match. Doesn’t matter against who I play.
Q. Did you try to lift up that trophy?
SIMONA HALEP: Yes. For sure. I have power for this. (Grunting.) (Can’t lift the trophy.)
How many kilos? No, I want to play Miami, so…
Q. Sorry for asking that question.
SIMONA HALEP: It’s very heavy. Okay.
You Might Like:
Simona Halep Clinches 2017 WTA No. 1 Ranking
Muguruza Wins Title, Halep Falls Flat, Wins 1 Game in WTA Cincinnati Final
Halep Wins Biggest Career Title at WTA Dubai
Simona Halep Secures No. 1 Ranking And Australian Open Top Seed
Simona Halep Confirms Darren Cahill As Her New Coach For 2016