Simona Halep sat down with reporters at the All-Access Hour in Cincinnati on Monday, and recounted her long, winding road - literally - to the Western & Southern Open.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
August 14, 2017

CINCINNATI, OH, USA -- Simona Halep prefers to keep her feet firmly on the ground. Literally.

The World No.2 told reporters ahead of the Western & Southern Open that while her support team took a private plane from the Rogers Cup to Cincinnati, Halep abandoned the scheme and opted to drive for six hours from Buffalo, N.Y. to the tournament. 

"Darren [Cahill, her coach] told me that it's really complicated to get a normal flight," Halep told a roundtable of reporters during All Access Hour on Monday. "So he asked me if I would like to have a private plane. So for the first time of my life I said ok, let's take it. He arranged everything. We went there five minutes before and everything was ok.

"The first time I saw the plane I was scared, to be honest. He said be calm, it will be ok. We had to stop in Buffalo because of customs. I said that's enough, that 30 minute flight (laughs). I am not going to go again in that plane. So I got a car and came by car.

"The plane was too small. I got claustrophobic. I felt like I had no air. I was like...white (laughs). And cold. The two boys -- my physio and my fitness trainer -- they went by private plane and I came with Darren. Poor Darren. I'm sorry for him (laughs). It was relaxed, actually, after that plane. I drove two hours, he drove four hours."

"The view [during the drive] was really good. And it was quiet. That plane was moving a little bit too much. I was better on the ground (laughs)."

Halep was in good spirits ahead of the Western & Southern Open, where she once again has a chance to grab the No.1 ranking.

Halep is one of four women trying to chase down No.1 and defending champion Karolina Pliskova this week. She needs to advance to the semifinals to have a chance to overtake the Czech.

This is Halep's fourth tournament at which she's had a chance to become the first Romanian WTA No.1, coming within a handful of games during the French Open final and then coming within two points of getting over the line in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. 

"I'm not thinking anymore about [the No.1 ranking]," Halep said. "I think the desire holds me back a little bit. I'm just trying to take it match by match, and if I am able and if I deserve the place, then for sure I will be. So I will work --  every day hard work -- and try to win every match."

A semifinalist last year, Halep opens her tournament against American qualifier Taylor Townsend on Tuesday.

The Romanian comes into Cincinnati after a mixed bag of results at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, where she played, in her opinion, her best hard court match of the season in a straight set win over Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals, only to play one of the worst matches of her career later that day in a 6-1, 6-1 loss to eventual champion Elina Svitolina.

Even 48 hours after that puzzling loss, Halep was still at a loss to explain what happened. 

"I can't explain much," Halep said. "I'm really disappointed about that match. I never had something like that. It never happened to me. 

"I really want to apologize, actually, to the fans and the people who came to that match. It was a horror match for me. I just couldn't feel the ball. Today I practiced and it's a little bit better. But I have one more practice today and I'm sure it's going to come back."