SHENZHEN, China - Daniel Dobre knew Simona Halep before she became "Simona Halep" and he's seen her change and evolve through the sport. The Romanian started coaching Halep in 2007, a year before she would win the girls' Roland Garros title at the age of 16, and he was in the coaching box when she qualified for her first WTA Finals in 2014 and defeated Serena Williams in group. Less than five years later, Dobre was in the box again as he watched his charge roll to the Wimbledon title, defeating Williams again.
He has watched up close and afar as Halep has matured into one of, if not the most, significant sporting figures in Romania. But he says her evolution cannot just be credited to time and experience. Dobre, who reunited with Halep this spring after her split with Darren Cahill, says her evolution is a credit to herself and her personal desire to be the best person she could be.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the 2019 Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, Dobre was asked to compare the Halep of old to the Halep of new. From the fiery temperamental young player who wanted success so much that she got in her own way, to the two-time major champion and former No.1, who has now balanced her ambition with perspective.
"The differences are big," Dobre told reporters in Shenzhen. "The main things, her main behavior, they are there. She's a fighter, she's very ambitious, focused, very intense in everything that she's doing. Doesn't matter if you are on the court or outside the court, she's all the time 100% there.
"But she's learned a little bit more about her feelings on the court, about her feelings outside the court. In the beginning, she was upset if the people were speaking bad, if the people didn't understand her real behavior, her real essence.
"Now she can go over. This is one thing that was really difficult for her. She was reading the paper, reading about what the people said. It was not really good.
"The other thing, she was upset always when she was losing matches. Sometimes you couldn't speak with her after one lost match for two or three days. She was really sad about it.
"Now, it's not that she don't care if she loses - if she loses she cares a lot - but she learned a little bit to control better the emotion. Even today she lost, tomorrow she can start again, she can start preparing the next game.
"It's also because she achieved almost all her targets. It's easier for her to accept. The next week it will be another one.
"The other thing, outside the court she is more open. She's ready to try new things. Doesn't matter if you speak about a new restaurant, about visiting something. She's open also to meet people. I think you observe already she is speaking better. She is often also with the journalists.
"It's something like maturity, but at the same time she works a lot. She works with a mental coach. Darren helps her a lot because the Australian style of life, it's different than Romanian.
"He's more positive. She want this. She knows it is better for her. She knows also the behavior outside of the court will help her tennis."
Dobre was also asked to shed light on Halep's stature in Romania and her place amongst the great sportsman and sportswomen of her time in a sports-obsessed country.
"First, you need to understand the sports situation in Romania. Romania was, let's say in communist time before 1990, it was one of the biggest sport countries in the world. In the Olympic Games we were top five all the time, have champions in gymnastics, handball, football, everything.
"Right now we just have Simona at that level.
"Our future good sports champions are gone. Only Simona is there. If you think all the attention that before was for let's say a hundred big sports people, now is going to Simona. It's unbelievable.
"Right now, everywhere she's going, everybody knows her and everybody wants a photo, everybody want to speak with her. She gets all the time some problems with the people because if she won one time, everybody thinks she can win all the time. When she was losing matches, they were very bad to her, really bad things were written in the newspapers.
"After Wimbledon, her position is much bigger now. Everybody was, Okay, she won one time Roland Garros, it was just a surprise, she's not able to do it [again]. They saw how good she was in Wimbledon.
"Nobody won Wimbledon from Romania. Even Ilie Nastase was so good, so big. Virginia Ruzici, No. 7 in the world, won Roland Garros.
"So it's very difficult to describe. The presentation of the trophy in the stadium, 30,000 people there. There are football games where you don't find 30,000 people.
"Is huge her position because there are not other good sportsman there. But also because she's like a [role] model, the way she is training, the way she built her career. She was giving everything for tennis. She didn't get the lifestyle like other girls are doing. She just focused on tennis.
"It's a value of work. In Romania we don't have so many examples like this. Romania is a country where the work is not so [much] appreciated. If you can live good without working, that is the best thing. It's not nice to say this, but this is Romania right now.
"The example that Simona is giving is an example that you can achieve everything if you work hard and if you believe. So many people appreciate this."