WUHAN, China - Former World No.1 Simona Halep didn't want her Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open All Access Hour interview to end. Comfortably slouched, the former World No.1, who had already won a doubles match with compatriot Raluca Olaru, held her hands to her headphones as she listened to a live translation of Chinese questions that ranged from her fast-approaching birthday to her favorite Asian Swing snack.
"In China, I could never get fat," she joked. "The food here is very clean."
Halep brought that relaxed energy across the Optics Valley International Tennis Centre, where she effortlessly led the volunteers and participating ballkids through a commemorative photo and fast-paced clinic where she showed off her signature tweener, all the while laughing and signing autographs.
Some of that positivity seemingly stems from her recent announcement that longtime coach Darren Cahill will rejoin her team for the 2020 season. So excited was the Romanian to share the news that she posted a video days after the US Open, discussing the reunion while strolling down an empty street.
"Darren told me that he's ready to start with me again for the next year; he just left it in my hands how I can announce," she said of the video, which she filmed in two takes. "I felt that I have to do a video, personal video, which I don't do very often. But for this thing, I thought it's the best way to announce."
Though Halep and Cahill ostensibly ended their three-year partnership at the conclusion of last year, the reigning Wimbledon champion has been clear that the Aussie coach and was far from out of the picture - even as current coach Daniel Dobre took over as her traveling coach back in the spring.
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) September 12, 2019
"As everyone knows, Darren was not very away from my career this year. He was in the background, helping me a lot - during Wimbledon the most. He is part of that success, for sure.
"I had no clear answer until after US Open, when he really told me that, '100% I can come back.' I didn't have it in my head that he's going to be for sure next year in my team, so I was waiting until he told me 100%.
"Since then I'm really happy and I feel confident that next year I can do some good things again."
Some of that joy also comes from that aforementioned Wimbledon run, where she played some of the best tennis of her career to score back-to-back straight sets wins over nemesis Elina Svitolina and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams on what had previously been her least favorite surface.
"We don't have two days that are the same in this life. It's tough to expect to repeat something. I just want to do the best I can today, tomorrow, yesterday. I try just to work hard and to be thinking about how to improve in myself.
"I'm not trying and I'm not thinking to repeat what I did in Wimbledon. Of course, that's maybe the best level of my tennis game, but I'm trying just to be healthy, to be positive and to be confident. If you are confident, you have a better chance to reach the highest level of yourself. I'm doing that."
With a confident and positive attitude - and few points to defend through the Asian Swing - Halep can end 2019 atop the WTA rankings for a third time in her career, and set a new goal she plans to dedicate to Cahill.
"I have this possibility in my mind, I have to admit," she said of a possible Career Grand Slam. "I know it's difficult, but after Wimbledon, I feel like everything is possible in this world.
"I will try just to work hard on the hardcourts, to do what I need to do. On grass courts, I changed the game a little bit, and helped me. Now I have to adjust my game to hardcourts more and more.
"I had great results in the past. I had final in Melbourne. My main goal for this next years, let's say, it's to win the Australian Open because Darren is back and I'm sure he wants to win home."
Seeded No.4 in Wuhan, Halep will begin her campaign against either Barbora Strycova or local wildcard Wang Xiyu.