TORONTO, Canada - Former World No.1 Simona Halep was eager to shake off the rust at her first tournament back in action since her Wimbledon triumph, partnering up with Canadian youngster Leylah Fernandez in the Rogers Cup doubles competition.
Looking for extra matchplay before her Toronto debut against Jennifer Brady, No.4 seed Halep told journalists at the pair's joint post-match press conference that she enlisted the help of tournament director Karl Hale to find her a doubles partner.
Halep admitted that she saw a bit of herself in 16-year-old Fernandez, the youngest player in the singles draw.
“[Karl] recommended me a few players by email,” Halep told press in Toronto. “I picked Leylah because I heard that she's very ambitious. And she just won the French Open, and I remember that I did that 10 years ago. So I just wanted to play with her, and that was it.”
The wildcard duo was dealt a tough opening round against the No.7 seeds Nichole Melichar and Kveta Peschke, a veteran partnership. Halep and Fernandez rallied to take the first set, but ultimately fell in a match tiebreak, 1-6, 6-3, 10-5.
Despite the disappointing result, Halep told press that she felt satisfied with her first taste of match play since July.
“[The first match was] not easy at all, it was tough,” Halep admitted. “I was nervous, honestly. I had a long break back home. So it was tough to get the rhythm back.
“But in my opinion, I played okay today. I played decent. And I made some important mistakes, but that's it. I have to learn from this match and to be better tomorrow.”
Fernandez was quick to let Halep off the hook, joking: “You're not the only one who made important mistakes, so…”
For the young Canadian, who was contesting just her second WTA main draw event in her career, the experience of playing alongside the two-time Grand Slam champion was invaluable.
“I think just her presence has just motivated me a lot,” Fernandez told reporters. “Honestly, I was really nervous at the beginning, but she just really calmed me down, just saying that whatever you want to talk about, just tell her, and that helped me.”
Amused, Halep replied with a wry smile, “I have to learn how I calmed her down, because I need to calm down myself sometimes. So I will take a look about that.”
The Romanian had nothing but praise for her young doubles partner, although she did admit that sharing the court with a 16-year-old made her feel ‘old’.
“For me it was great to play with a very young player, and she played really well today, so congrats,” Halep told Fernandez. “And be positive. You have a good future ahead. So good luck for the next tournaments and be confident.
“It was a good experience for me too. I felt a little bit old on court, ten years older than her.”
“You're not old!” Fernandez replied. “Don't worry, you're very young.”