Halep Leads Romanian Resurgence
Published March 18, 2014 12:12
She may not have the Grand Slam title just yet, but on Monday Simona Halep became - in terms of world ranking, at least - the most successful Romanian player of all time.
Asked in Indian Wells what she does to relax between matches, she responded: "I don't keep my mind off tennis, I'm thinking every day tennis."
This dedication has seen the 22-year-old emerge as one of the most improved players on the WTA, picking up seven titles over the past 12 months. And more are likely to follow, according to her new coach Wim Fissette, who has already spoken in glowing terms about his charge's competitive spirit and on-court IQ.
Halep's next goal is to follow in the footsteps of her manager and mentor, Virginia Ruzici, and lift a major. In January, she reached her first quarterfinal, at the Australian Open, and she knows this is where she must prove herself.
"It means a lot to reach the Top 5," Halep said. "I'm now the best Romanian in history for rankings - but my goal is to win a Grand Slam, and then maybe I'll be the best, because Virginia won the French Open."
However, while Halep has been dominating the headlines, she is not the only Romanian flying the flag; former French Open quarterfinalist Sorana Cirstea continues to knock on the door of the Top 20, while Monica Niculescu, Alexandra Cadantu, Irina-Camelia Begu and the returning Alexandra Dulgheru are not too far behind.
Thanks to their success and that of the Fed Cup team - which is eyeing up a return to the World Group for the first time since 1999 - tennis' popularity is booming in Romania.
In July, the inaugural Bucharest Open will take place on the clay of the Arenele BNP, which also hosts an ATP stop-off, while bumper crowds are expected at the same venue for April's Fed Cup tie with Serbia.
"It's exciting times for Romanian tennis," Cirstea said. "We had a great week in Fed Cup earlier in the year where we qualified.
"But it's not just the result, but we feel like a team - we are all similar ages and grew up together, so it's nice to see that we've made it and most important of all we are doing well."