Former No.1 Simona Halep finished her injury-addled 2021 season on a positive note and has her eye on a return to the Top 10.
After suffering a calf injury in Rome that sidelined her from Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Olympics, the two-time major champion saw her Top 10 streak end after 373 consecutive weeks, the eighth-longest in tour history. As she starts 2022 ranked No.20, Halep says she's champing at the bit to get the season underway.
"In practice I'm really good," Halep told reporters ahead of the Melbourne Summer Set 1, where she is the No.2 seed. "I win some sets. I practice more than normal. I can stay two hours a day on the court, which was not easy in the past.
"I see the tennis different in this stage of my life, and it's more joy, so I'm more relaxed. I don't put pressure on myself, so I will try to keep that during the matches, which is not easy, but I'm here just to give my best chance, so we will see."
Halep spoke to WTA Insider from Melbourne to discuss her 2022 goals and the source of her motivation as she enters a new phase of her career.
WTA Insider: How do you define success for yourself in 2022?
Halep: To get back to Top 10. This is the main goal and this is actually the only one goal. But everything that comes along with it is a bonus and we will see. But the focus is to get back to the Top 10.
WTA Insider: You got married last year and joke about feeling old now at 30. How do you see this next phase of your career?
Halep: I thought about it being close to the end, but honestly after this pre-season and how I feel right now at the tournament, I feel like I have a few more years to play. My husband is supporting me in that direction, my family as well. My team says I'm still good enough to go there and compete, so I'm not thinking about retirement yet. I just want to enjoy and give my best because I know there is another chance.
WTA Insider: What motivates you at this point in your career?
Halep: To see how good I can still be, to see how much I can still win. I'm motivated to just try my best every day. I still enjoy tennis and the competition. I still want more and more from myself. I have a good team, I have nice people around. This is my motivation. I don't have one thing as a motivation, like a tournament or a result.
WTA Insider: You finished well, making the final in Cluj-Napoca and semifinals in Linz. How positive were you feeling at the end of last season?
Halep: This was the goal after the US Open. There actually, I felt I played decent and to be better I have to keep playing. That's why I chose small tournaments to get more matches, which I did. I had good matches and I felt very positive after Linz, even if I had to retire because of the knee.
I felt I was there, I'm still there, I just had to work more physically because during the year I was not able to work that much because of the injury that I had. Here I am and I'm very positive with what I've done and, honestly, confident for what is coming.
WTA Insider: How do you see the state of competition on the WTA Tour in 2022?
Halep: I think it's different from five years ago. I think it's more open and the teenagers have the extra power to win the big tournaments. It's very difficult every time you play. First round, second round, semifinals, the level is pretty similar.
I think it's a good thing. It's a positive for tennis. I didn't watch much last year because of the injury, but I saw some results. It's going to be pretty interesting this year. I'm looking forward to it, to see if I can stick around.