For Simona Halep (Constanza, 1991), Madrid is a small oasis within the demanding calendar. Twice champion (2016 and 2017) of the Mutua Madrid Open, she is looking for another goal this time: to feel comfortable on the court again and forget the injury to her calf that kept her from tennis for much of 2021. Rethinking her relationship with the racket, enjoy again, and attend ABC hours before playing one of those games that could well be a final, against Paula Badosa, number 2.
You have won twice in Madrid, what is your goal for this edition?
I’ve been injured for a long time, so now I’m just trying to get my confidence back. I’m playing well, but every match is difficult already at these levels.
I’m going to take it easy. No goals. Just play my best tennis.
A second round against Paula Badosa looks like a final match.
It is a challenge. He is playing very well. And she is number 2 currently. It’s going to be a battle. But I’m here to do my best, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow [por hoy].
Did the injury make you rethink your goals in tennis?
The first thing is that I want to be healthy. This way I will be able to play tennis well. I have worked a lot in the last month with Patrick [Mouratoglou, su entrenador]. We have done great things. And now I want to keep my mentality, also my energy level, to try to play the best tennis when I enter the court. Tennis is still my priority. I still have a great passion for this sport, which I love. I want to continue working to find my best version every time I go out on the track.
How has tennis changed in recent years?
It has changed a lot, yes. It is much more powerful, the players are. And that shows in the fact that the ball returns very quickly and ends the point before. They all have a lot of strength. I try to adapt to be in this new tennis as long as possible. But you have to work a lot for that.
Has your relationship with tennis changed?
It was hard during the pandemic, but now we see that it is getting back to normal. And that’s great because it comes back to the public and that means a lot. We have people, we have energy. I feel good after that. I feel happy to be on the track. Nothing much has changed, but it is true that I am thirty years old and I see tennis differently. Especially the pressure. I don’t put as much pressure on myself as before, I take everything more calmly, more easily. And I think I’m enjoying it more.
Being consistent is the hardest thing?
Yes, it is the hardest and also the most stressful. You have to play a great match every day, at the highest level. It’s not easy, but I’m glad I can do it. It wears you out, of course, but it makes me happy to see that I’m able to do it because not many people are able to keep up with this pace.
How is Patrick helping you?
It is helping me a lot in the tennis part and also in the mental part on the court. We have a great relationship, a great connection. I feel that he really trusts me, he truly believes that I can continue to do great things. And he transmits it to me. It’s building my confidence. It is an honor that he is part of my team, it is making me return to my best tennis again.
She seems very calm on the track…
Yeah, I’m better at it now. I control my nerves more easily and I feel good on the court. Before, yes, I was more emotional, but now I am more stable during matches.
-How long are you thinking about a defeat? And to victory?
It affects me, it affects me to lose. I need a few days to think about what I did wrong and what I can do better next time. Wins don’t stick around as long because you’re playing the next day, so you have to cut off happiness right away to stay focused so you can play well that next game. But the defeats are a little harder, of course.
-Did you understand Barty’s decision to retire at the age of 25?
It was a surprise to me. I did not expect that. He is still very young, he was number one and he kept winning everything. But I think that decision made her happy, so it’s the best decision. Some decisions make you happy, so you have to make them. And I think she is very happy now.
– Did it make you think?
Well, I’m not retiring yet. I still want to play tennis, I love it. It is my priority still. And I will do it until my body says ‘stop’. I’m healthy now, so we’ll see.