World No.1 Simona Halep joins the WTA Insider Podcast after a grueling week at the Coupe Rogers, where she was forced to dig deep and tap into a new level of desire and physicality to defeat four Top 20 players en route to her third title of the season.
"I was surprised and Darren was surprised," Halep said on the WTA Insider Podcast. "I didn't play tennis for three weeks after Wimbledon, but I did gym every day. So my physical part was on the same level. I surprised myself with my desire on court. It was really high and I didn't give up at any point during these matches. I think I was close to playing my best tennis in the last matches, and physically in the semifinals I felt like my tennis legs are back."
After spending over three hours on the court in her opening win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Halep turned around to defeat Venus Williams the same day, then knocked off Caroline Garcia, Ashleigh Barty to advance to her fifth final of the season. Then, in a rematch of their dramatic Roland Garros final, Halep found a way past No.3 Sloane Stephens to win 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hours and 40 minutes to capture her second Montreal title.
"For me, it was brutal, the effort," Halep said. "But I'm happier it was like that. It makes me feel more confident and more relaxed. Even if I'm already relaxed after the French Open, I feel like now I like this and I want to keep this feeling."
"It's like a bomb of good energy and a bomb of desire that I want more. I feel that."
Halep's successful week in Montreal also made her the first player to qualify for the 2018 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
Fresh off a quick flight on a private jet to Cincinnati, where she's set to compete at the Western & Southern Open, a happy Halep reflects on her tough week in Montreal and the keys to her dream season.
Listen to the full interview below:
WTA Insider: Simona, there's lots to talk about and I'm glad that I'm talking to you 24 hours after you won the title because you looked exhausted after your week in Montreal. How are you feeling now?
Halep: I agree. I'm exhausted, I'm tired. It's not easy to come after winning a big tournament and also having so many matches in the short period. So for me it was brutal, the effort, but I'm happier that it was like that and being able to win it, it was great. It also makes me feel more confident and more relaxed even if I'm already relaxed after the French Open. I feel like now, okay I like this and I want to keep the feeling.
WTA Insider: To take that long break after Wimbledon and to come out and do what you did in Montreal, physically in addition to mentally, what does that say about you? Did you surprise yourself a little bit with what you were able to do in Montreal?
Halep: I did and also Darren was surprised. I didn't play tennis for three weeks after Wimbledon. But I did gym every day. So my physical part was at the same level, so I didn't lose much. I didn't run because I had my Achilles problems but still I did in the gym.
Yeah, I surprised myself with my desire on court. It was really, really high and I didn't give up at any point during these matches. I think I was close to playing my best tennis in the last matches, and physically, in the semifinal, I felt like my tennis legs are back. So I felt really confident on them and maybe that's why I was able to finish yesterday.
But still, I felt like I'm dead in the second set so I can feel the break. I can realize that it was not the great move to stay that much but I think also it was good for my head.
WTA Insider: Do you think that you're playing the best tennis of your career right now?
Halep: I feel the best on court. I don't know if my tennis is at the highest level. I feel like at the French Open, on clay, I played very well. But I don't know if it's going to be the best tennis. I hope I can improve more on some things, but I feel the best inside, and also mentally.
WTA Insider: We've talked I think at the end of last year after you got number one about the idea of playing with the No.1 ranking. Other players have struggled with it. You haven't. Are there moments where it's been difficult this year where the No.1 ranking has helped you?.
Halep: Yeah, of course I thought about being No.1 in the world. But for me it was not something negative, for me was a positive thing. And the fact that I was able to reach this place means that I'm able to continue on this way. So the pressure was off all the time.
Of course it was tough to get it. I failed like three or four times, so maybe with that experience now I think different. They asked me yesterday if I lost my motivation after French Open. I said, Come on, I won only one. I don't have 20 Grand Slams to now lose my motivation.
So it's like a bomb full of good energy and a bomb of desire that I want more. So I feel that.
WTA Insider: What does the Montreal title mean to you?
Halep: A lot because after I played three hours and a half hours with Pavlyuchenkova I talked to Darren and I said I can't do anymore. I can't go on court anymore.
WTA Insider: I thought you were going to pull out before playing Venus. That was an exhausting match you played against Anastasia.
Halep: I thought the same. I was very sore straightaway and I had to spend a few more hours there, so it was worse. And when I woke up actually - because I slept a little bit - when I woke up and I said Okay I'm going to give it a try. And I saw on court that Venus was struggling a little bit, honestly. I said okay now it's time, and the next day I was really okay to continue.
WTA Insider: You do a remarkable job of playing well when you're exhausted. Why do you think that is? Is it just kind of almost relaxing? You let it go?
Halep: Exactly. I'm relaxing myself and also I don't expect anything from me so I don't think that much about what is happening. I just let it go. So maybe that's why I play better and I don't care anymore about the result, which is I think the most important thing for all the players.
WTA Insider: So Singapore. Fifth consecutive year. You're the only player to qualify all five years in Singapore and one of the things that I found really impressive when I was going through your numbers last night you've only played 11 events this year. That's the fewest of anybody in the top 20 except for Serena.
So despite only playing 11 events you're the first player to qualify. You lead the tour in match wins. You have the most hardcourt wins. That doesn't make sense. Your schedule hasn't been super heavy and there have been injuries where you had to skip events, but it's a unique situation to play so limited, but to put up so many consistent results that you find yourself back in Singapore so early.
Halep: For me the most important thing is to be fresh before the tournament. That's why maybe I could play many matches during the tournament, to go to it till the end.
When I started to work with Darren first thing that I told him, I said that I don't want to play many tournaments. So just let's do the schedule as short as possible. I don't like to travel that much and I don't like to play every tournament. It makes me exhausted. So I chose to play less tournaments, and of course the best way is to do the maximum in them. So this is a very happy case in my case and I will keep it. I don't want to play more. I just want to play what I have to and to be a hundred percent when I go to every tournament.
WTA Insider: What does it mean for you to get back into Singapore and what does that tournament mean for you?
Halep: Well my first WTA Finals was here in Singapore so it's really special and to qualify again it's amazing.
In 2014 after I qualified my brother told me that if you do five years of Singapore then you can retire [laughing]. If that's the case, I said yeah.
And now being in this position I would say no. I'm not going to retire because I feel so well on court and I enjoy it. I enjoy a lot at this moment. So no, I love playing tennis. I will not retire, but soon it's going to happen.
WTA Insider: Obviously the French Open is going to be the thing that you'll remember the most from this year, but in terms of the consistency that you've been able to bring on the tour level week in and week out, what has been the secret there for you? Is it just being fresh is it just the mental side of things. What do you think?
Halep: Both being fresh and also the mental. The mental I think is 95 percent these days. Everyone knows how to hit the ball and everyone is working hard in the gym.
I was very consistent also in the gym. Before I was a little a bit in and out. I could do five days strong in the gym and then three days off because I was tired. Now I'm just trying to go every day, even if I do less. I try to keep that very professional. I don't do something special. I just rest when I finish a tournament, when I can I go home for even two days just to take the energy back and recharge my batteries.
I feel that my life it's really nice and beautiful. I have only positive people around me. I feel that helps me to stay healthy and to stay with energy for playing tournaments. Injuries, I had a few this year but they were little injuries so I take care of my body.
My priority is tennis in my life, so I do everything just to be good for this sport. I think this is the secret to be consistent. Maybe other things also. But the hard work is the most important thing.