ROME, Italy -- For the second year in a row, Simona Halep propelled herself into the Internazionali BNL d'Italia final, but, for the second year in a row, the Romanian fell at the final hurdle to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina.
Nevertheless, the World No.1 understands that the remainder of the season can fall a number of different ways, where, as she says, "everyone has a chance to win" -- and that she, like much of the field, is still in the mix for any title.
In the Rome final on Sunday, however, Svitolina was the better player, rolling to victory in 67 minutes without facing a break point. "[Svitolina] was solid," Halep told the press, after the match. "She is solid every time I play against [her]. So it was a good match made by her, and she deserved to win, for sure.”
“I think I was a little bit tight and the muscles were a little bit stiff," Halep continued. "I couldn't run. Because I knew that I have to run in this match. I didn't start well. Maybe I was rushing a little bit. She didn't miss. I missed in the first set. But then the match was a little bit better, and it's good that I could finish strong.”
Halep was a day removed from her grueling three-set semifinal win over frequent rival Maria Sharapova. “Every time I play against Sharapova, the ball is coming very flat and I bend a lot, so my back gets a little bit sore," said Halep. "But it was not about the injury. Today, just I was not fresh enough to start the match better.”
The world's top-ranked player now turns towards the next Grand Slam event, as she hopes to win a maiden major at Roland Garros, where she was runner-up to Sharapova in 2014 and to Jelena Ostapenko last year.
Halep spoke about the disparity between WTA events, where she has been extremely successful, and Grand Slams, where she still seeks a first title. “Maybe the history makes it special and you feel the pressure more,” mused Halep.
"The atmosphere is different," added Halep. "Many people. So, we cannot compare a normal tournament with a Grand Slam."
“But, we should treat all [events] the same,” Halep concluded. “With experience, I think you get there and you treat it like a normal tournament.”
Halep is also aware that Roland Garros is a wide-open event once more in 2018. When the media brought up that Halep had surmised that 15 or 20 players could emerge victorious before the clay-court Grand Slam event last year, the World No.1 smiled. “And I was right, huh?” she replied, thinking back to Ostapenko’s unexpected triumph.
Despite the loss in Rome, Halep understands that her chances, like those of many others, don’t particularly diminish after one event where the champion’s trophy went begging.
“Maybe five, six players are a little bit stronger on clay,” said Halep. “But I feel the same. I think that tennis, women’s tennis, has changed, and every tournament is open. And everyone has a chance to win, even a Grand Slam.”
“So, we will see. I don't want to say anything about the results. Just go in there, and we'll see what's gonna happen.”
“Last year, I played the final. So, we can think about that. But [there are] many matches before the final. So I wish just to go there, to be ready, to feel good, and to win the first round. Because always the first round is the toughest.”