Simona Halep 'proud' of her own consistency to stay on top and reveals her goals for 2019

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Simona Halep is not letting a herniated disk overshadow what has been a dream career-best season for her and she already has her eyes on further success in 2019.

The Romanian secured the 2018 WTA year-end No. 1 ranking presented by Dubai Duty Free for a second straight year, but this time, she has a Grand Slam title under her belt.

Last season, the top spot switched hands seven times before Halep finished the year on top. Entering the 2017 WTA Finals in Singapore, seven of the eight women in the field could have walked away with the No. 1 ranking.

This year has been a different story though. Halep has maintained her position at the summit for the whole year, barring the four weeks she was replaced by Caroline Wozniacki after the Dane won the Australian Open in January.

Halep’s peers are not surprised by her stronghold on the top position this year, and neither is she.

“I’m not surprised because I feel like I played a good level of tennis and I was very consistent. I made two finals at the Grand Slams, I made a few finals, I won two more tournaments, I felt that I was very consistent and very strong, also mentally and physically. I’m not surprised at all, I just want to be happy about what I’ve done and to enjoy the moment because for sure it’s the best one,” said the 27-year-old.

Halep picked up three titles in 2018, in Shenzhen, Roland Garros and Montreal, and she lost three finals at the Australian Open, Rome and Cincinnati. She has won 46 matches and lost 11 and leads the tour in percentage of return games and return points won for the season.

She explains the key to her consistency this year by saying: “To enjoy the time on court and always I was looking for this, for the beautiful moments, having fun all the time at all the tournaments, I was bringing my family most of the time when I wanted, when I needed, I had friends very close to me. I think the life off-court is pretty good and that’s why I feel happy on court and I have energy to keep doing what I’m doing every day.”

Last year, Halep missed out on clinching the No. 1 ranking when she lost the French Open final to Jelena Ostapenko. She had another opportunity slip past her when she lost to Johanna Konta in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, then again when she fell to Garbine Muguruza in the Cincinnati final. She eventually rose to the top for the first time in Beijing on October 9, 2017.

She’s held onto it since, with the exception of the aforementioned four weeks.

Asked which was tougher, getting to No. 1 or staying there, Halep said: “Both of them because I had many tries to get to No. 1. It was really tough mentally to stay there and to keep believing it was going to happen one day. But then when I touched it, it was really tough to keep it because the pressure is like every tournament, every week you’re thinking about No.1 – actually me personally I didn’t think that much but people around me were talking a lot and it’s impossible to just stop hearing them. And then you have to be at your highest level every week to be able to keep the No. 1 place. I think did it pretty well and I will take both things at the same level of difficulty.”

On Monday, Halep began her 50th week at the top of the world rankings, which means she has spent more time as No. 1 than players like Maria Sharapova (21 weeks), Amelie Mauresmo (39 weeks), and Kim Clijsters (20).

“It means a lot because as I was growing up, these girls were my idols and were my models for the future, to be like them or to try to be like them, they inspired me all the time. So to be there it means a lot and gives me a special thought about it and gives me confidence that I was able to do something huge in tennis and it makes me proud to be honest,” says Halep of eclipsing such stars of the game in that category.

Looking ahead to next year, one would think that scooping more majors would be on top of Halep’s priority list but her main goals are a bit different than the typical bucket list.

“For the next year, I would love to win Rome because I have already two finals there and it’s one of my favourite cities. So I really wish I will be able to win it and of course to win as much as possible in Fed Cup. Those are my two goals for next year,” asserts Halep.

With her participation at next week’s WTA Finals hanging in the balance, Halep is still hoping she can make it. If she does, she’d be the only player to qualify and compete at all five editions of the season finale staged in Singapore, before the event moves on to its next home in Shenzhen in 2019.

“I’m really proud and it’s amazing I could do this. I really hope to be able to play this year also. It’s amazing I could qualify for Singapore all five years. Actually when I first came to Singapore in 2014 my brother told me, ‘if you’ll be these five years in Singapore, you can retire’. It’s pretty amazing. I won’t retire but I will keep this as one of the best things that happened to me in tennis,” she says.

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