SINGAPORE - Past tribulations would only make redemption taste sweeter for Simona Halep in 2018. The Romanian's career arc was undoubtedly one of the year's most inspirational when, in her fourth major final, she finally got over the line to become a Grand Slam champion for the first time at Roland Garros.
Halep's journey there had been a long, winding and often arduous one. In 2014, when she narrowly the French Open crown to Maria Sharapova, Halep's ability to rise to the occasion in her very first major final seemed to indicate that she was herself on the verge of lifting one of the most important trophies in the sport. But despite embedding herself as a permanent fixture in the Top 5, it would be another three years before Halep would return to a Grand Slam title round - and once there, she would fall to 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko in three sets.
The World No.1 ranking would follow last October, as did another major final loss to Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open. But the battling manner of Halep's run in Melbourne seemed to indicate that a corner had been turned - and sure enough, glory would come in style, appropriately enough in Paris once again. Halep would defeat three consecutive major champions - Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza and Sloane Stephens - and come from a set down three times in a title run characterized by fighting spirit, strategic changes to turn matches around and, ultimately, an ability to play her own best tennis when it mattered most.
Roland Garros was one of three titles Halep would capture in 2018, along with Shenzhen and Montréal - beating Stephens once again in another classic final to take the latter trophy. Only five-time titlist Petra Kvitova has won more, and no other Slam champion this year has played more than one major final. Although a herniated disk in Halep's back has ended her season early, forcing her withdrawal from the WTA Finals, the 27-year-old still ends the year with a 46-11 win-loss record and a commanding lead as the Year-End World No.1.
Halep is also the recipient of the Special Achievement award as the only player who has qualified for the WTA Finals in Singapore in each of its five editions.
2018 WTA Awards Winners:
WTA Player of the Year: Simona Halep
WTA Doubles Team of the Year: Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova
WTA Most Improved Player of the Year: Kiki Bertens
WTA Newcomer of the Year: Aryna Sabalenka
WTA Comeback Player of the Year: Serena Williams
Jerry Diamond ACES Award: Elina Svitolina