SINGAPORE - WTA Legends Ambassador Chris Evert praised reigning Roland Garros champion Simona Halep for maximizing her abilities en route to securing a second consecutive WTA Year-End World No.1 Singles Ranking presented by Dubai Duty Free.
“Look at what Simona Halep had to do this year, the way she pulled herself out so many three-set matches,” she said in a press conference at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global on Saturday. “Players like her, Kerber, and Wozniacki, they don't have the one big weapon, so they have to fight and claw their way.”
Evert recently became the namesake for the WTA World No.1 trophy, and while she sees elements of her own game in above trio - all of whom went on to win major tournaments in 2018 - she readily admits the physicality vastly differs from her generation.
“It's just exhausting for me to watch them. Poor Simona has to run three steps for every of Venus [Williams’] one step. People wonder why she gets tired in a tournament! Well, she's 5'6", for one, so kudos to her for being No.1 and really playing her style of tennis.”
The first woman to be ranked World No.1 on the official WTA rankings, Evert noted her era’s increased focus, not only on the top spot, but also on being No.1 at the end of each season. While Halep has managed to hold onto the No.1 ranking for all but four weeks in 2018, the 18-time Grand Slam champion believes that the pressure of today’s game puts different priorities on the players.
“I think that because we have four Grand Slams a year, they go towards the thinking of, ‘What's the next Grand Slam?’ I think they know if you win a Grand Slam, it changes your life. Maybe you get a big bonus from your sponsors. It puts you on the map. You're in an iconic group, your name is on a trophy, goes down in history.
“The concept of No.1 is the whole year, and I think it's kind of tiring to think about. It's a long year, so their goals are more narrow; they're not the big, overall, ‘I want to play and I want to be No.1 at the end of the year.’ They have to set specific goals, and I think they target the Grand Slams because it really could change their life.”
The depth of the current field, according to Evert, is another aspect of this generation that makes it unlike any other.
“From the first match in a tournament or a Grand Slam, a top player can lose. You have to have your A game. You are using up so much energy emotionally, mentally, and physically in a tournament, unlike my era, or unlike the last era. It's so different now, because there are so many women who are really good out there and getting better and better. And they keep popping up. They keep popping up.
“I think eventually, even more than a player that separates themselves, I think a rivalry would be nice. We haven't seen one in a while. I think that would be nice if two of the players would get to that point.”
One rivalry she hopes to see more of involves Halep, who went up against 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in two three-set finals this season: first at the French Open and later at the Coupe Rogers in August.
“When I saw them play that match in Montréal, it was, like, ‘Okay, I hope they all take off the next few weeks before the US Open after that match, right?’” she joked of the nearly three-hour epic.
“That was a drag-out fight. I like that. I liked that one a lot, because that is a contrast in personalities and styles, in moods, in coaches. That is a definite contest.”