PARIS, France - She's the youngest and by far the greenest of the top seeds at the French Open, but there are five big reasons Simona Halep - who only just reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Australia earlier this year - should not be underestimated as one of the frontrunners for the title:
1) She's won the French Open before.
Okay, it may not have been the same French Open she's going for now, but Halep was the junior champion here in 2008, and she was barely losing games for most of the tournament - she won her first five matches in straight sets and lost just 21 games in 10 sets. She was pushed to three sets in the final against fellow Romanian Elena Bogdan, though she did cruise in that third - 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-2.
2) Virginia Ruzici, the only Romanian woman to win a Grand Slam, is her manager.
Back in 1978, before - way before - Halep was even born, Ruzici became the first, and so far only, Romanian woman to lift a Grand Slam trophy when she triumphed at Roland Garros. And she's now a big part of Halep's team, her manager - and the WTA legend sees a Grand Slam champion in Halep.
Ruzici talked about Halep's future during an interview with wtatennis.com from Sofia last November.
"I definitely saw her Top 10 potential when she won the French Open juniors," Ruzici said about Halep. "If she stays away from injuries and pressure, she can have a chance of winning a Grand Slam title.
"Probably the easiest Grand Slam to win for her could be on clay."
3) She's played as well as anyone in the last year.
Other, more experienced players may have more overall years in the upper echelon, more career titles and match wins and so on, but the fact is Halep is no newcomer anymore - she has been right up there with them, and right on par with the best of them, for almost exactly a full year at this point.
Halep went into Rome last year ranked No.64 in the world, and in the year since she has put together a 62-15 record in WTA main draw matches and cut her ranking all the way down to No.4 in the world.
And as it relates to the business end, she's 9-5 against Top 10 players in the last year.
4) She's got a Top 4 seed's draw - and it's a good one.
Before this, Halep had never even been a Top 10 seed at a Grand Slam, let alone a No.4 seed - but with her phenomenal results and an injured and absent Victoria Azarenka dipping down the rankings lately, Halep has made it up to No.4, and she'll avoid the other Top 3 seeds until at least the semis.
What's more, Halep's got to like her section. She's 2-0 against the other Top 8 seed in her quarter, No.5 seed Petra Kvitova, and she also has a winning 2-1 record against the next-highest seed in her quarter, No.11 seed Ana Ivanovic. She's 1-2 against her projected fourth round opponent, No.15 seed Sloane Stephens, but Stephens has had a very difficult clay court lead-up season, going 3-5.
5) Last but not least, she's putting no pressure on herself.
There could be a few reasons behind this. Maybe it's because she hasn't gone really deep into a Grand Slam before, or because she fell first round here last year, or maybe it's because of what she's been crediting her rapid rise to - being more relaxed on the court and just trying to enjoy her tennis.
But whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, Halep seems completely care free going in.
"I still think that a Grand Slam, it's too much for me now," Halep said during her run to the Madrid final two weeks ago. "Match by match I'll see how I feel. I don't think too far. Just match by match."
And in Rome: "I don't expect to win matches - I just want to play my best, always," she said. "The French Open is my favorite Grand Slam, and I hope I can win more matches there, but it's not easy."
Keep up with Halep's Grand Slam quest over the next two weeks right here on wtatennis.com.