SINGAPORE - World No.1 Simona Halep persistence, resilience, and humility were the keys behind her surge at the end of the season to win the 2017 Porsche Race to Singapore, sealing the No.1 spot on the Leaderboard and earn the top seed at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. To celebrate winning the inaugural race, Halep was be presented with a brand new Porsche 911 Carrera GTS on Friday.
Each of the 57 tournaments (53 WTA events plus the four Slams) leading into the WTA Finals represents one lap of the Porsche Race to Singapore, spread across 32 countries over nearly 10 months. After a sputtering start to the year due to a knee injury, 26-year-old Halep went on to accumulate 5,675 points in 17 laps (i.e. tournaments), narrowly surpassing Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza by just 40 points after making the China Open final in her last event of the regular season.
Halep joined the Porsche Race to Singapore Podium Podcast to reflect on her season, which began with a stall out of the gates and ended in an unexpected photo finish.
Listen to the Podium Podcast below:
WTA Insider: Getting over the line at the very end of the season, how do you think you got that done and did you even think it was a possibility?
Halep: Well I had many chances for sure this year to get to No.1, but less expected that it would be in China, to get it there. But in life, it's always like that. When you less expect things, they are happening. So I was really happy that I could win that before Singapore and finish the Race at No.1. It's a nice trophy and for sure everyone will remember this thing, from Romania for sure. It's a good thing for my family as well. They have worked a lot with me over many years and to be here as No.1 is a special moment.
I don't feel pressure for the moment. We'll see on Monday. But for the moment I will just enjoy this thing and this dream that came true.
WTA Insider: In Indian Wells, you were asked a question. What parts of your personality helps your tennis and what parts of your personality hurts your tennis. Do you remember what you said?
Halep: Whoa. I think the ambition keeps me playing and doing good results even if I have tough moments. What hurts me is impusivity. I hurt myself a lot during the matches and I put myself down.
What did I answer?
WTA Insider: You did answer ambition as the thing that helps you, and for what hurts you, you said self-confidence.
Halep: Yeah, which is similar to what I said now: I put myself down. I don't believe that I am able to do some things.
WTA Insider: How do you manage those two parts of your personality, both on the court and off the court?
Halep: Definitely the first one, ambition, stuck with me the whole year. That's why I'm here after all the tough moments I had during this year; there were many. The other one I think I improved a lot. Now I really believe I am able to do some things, some big things. When you work hard, when you win matches, when you are close to winning big tournaments, it gives you confidence.
WTA Insider: You were such a highly-touted junior. Junior No.1, junior Roland Garros champion, then had the big season in 2013 and 2014. When Simona Halep says she struggles with self-confidence, why would you? Every aspect of your career seems to have been moving up?
Halep: For sure my career was great so far. I have almost four years in the Top 5, so it's a nice thing and good thing. Many things are positive. But if you are like me, you always expect more. I don't know if it's good, but for sure for tennis in this moment it's ok because it keeps me motivated, it keeps me excited and looking forward for the next challenge. I had many this year that I couldn't take but finally, I did it in China, and it shows me that if I keep working, if I keep believing, everything is possible.
WTA Insider: Was there a moment where you walked off the court after a loss, threw up your hands, and thought 'Really? I'm so close to that No.1 ranking.' How rough was it?
Halep: Every time I threw up my hands like, 'Again?' (laughs). After the French Open was tough. I was crying after that match and I said it was impossible. I could not believe that I couldn't win that match leading a set and 3-0. I touched that trophy and still I couldn't take it.
I went home and I was depressed for 3-4 days. And then I was back on court and I said I have a good rhythm now. I have a good feeling of the ball and I have to keep pushing myself. It was not easy. I could not play Birmingham because I was injured a little bit. But then I went to Wimbledon and I played really well.
So after Wimbledon, things softened up. In the US I think I played close to my best tennis. I got the confidence back and everything was ok.
WTA Insider: Was it just a matter of telling yourself that you're playing well enough to do it and it was just a matter of continuing to put yourself in the position to do something.
Halep: Exactly. Actually always I'm nervous before big matches. Darren always tells me it's a good problem to have. It's a good problem to have emotions, to have stomach pains, as I had in Beijing every day - it killed me. But it's because of the passion that I have for tennis and the desire to make some big things happen. This keeps me alive in this moment. I live for tennis and I think every moment that I play, even if I lose or win, is special. I don't want to lose the confidence and I don't want to lose the energy to go ahead every week. In tennis, it's a good thing that every Monday we can reset and we can restart.
WTA Insider: Your consistency once you got healthy this year has been remarkable. If you look at the Race to Singapore, most of the cars have accelerated at times and then slowed down a little bit. It seems like your season, once you hit Stuttgart, you were at a high level. I don't recall any bad losses after that.
Halep: Yeah, it's true. I want to repeat that in my opinion, it's really impossible to play all year the same level, from January 1st to October 31st. It's kind of impossible in my opinion. Emotional, physically, lots of these things we have. Injuries can come, mental downs we can have, it's not easy. Since Stuttgart I played really well and I kept the level very high.
I had bad losses: Svitolina (Toronto SF) and Muguruza (Cincinnati F).
WTA Insider: Those were bad matches, but they're not bad opponents to lose to you and you did well to make the semifinals and final.
Halep: Definitely, they are very good players. But I could have done more in those matches, even if I wouldn't win them. I could play better.
WTA Insider: Which means you can still improve. Do those matches sting a little bit? That it's a reminder that you're still a work in progress?
Halep: For sure and definitely I will work, because even if I'm No.1 I have many things to improve. I have to work harder in my opinion now because the level is very high and I have to keep doing that every week, which is not easy. But we will see next year what is going to happen. I rewatched some matches from this year and definitely I want to improve some things and I started to work on them and for sure next year I will be stronger.