MIAMI, FL, USA - Reigning Roland Garros champion Simona Halep began her WTA All-Access Hour with some unexpected news.
"I have a Romanian coach, someone I’ve worked with before, even during my time with Darren," she announced at the Miami Open on Wednesday. "His name is Daniel Dobre. We worked before Darren as well, so he knows me pretty well, and I feel happy with this decision."
Halep began 2018 without longtime coach Darren Cahill, briefly working with Thierry Van Cleemput after the Australian Open before splitting after the Qatar Total Open.
"I trust him, and we had a good collaboration in the past," Halep said of Dobre. "The most important thing is that I feel good with him. We have a good connection, and it makes things easier."
The experience with Cahill, with whom she won her maiden major title last spring and twice finished as the WTA Year-End World No.1, may be hard to beat but the Romanian has realistic expectations when it comes to a new coaching partnership.
"I had three years full of advice from Darren, which I can describe are the best ones. It’s tough to pick only one. The fact that a coach trusts and believes in you, that’s the best thing for a player to feel free and confident on court.
"I need to feel a connection, inspiration. You always want a coach with the best technique, but after 20 years of playing tennis, you can’t change much technically or tactically. For me, the most important thing is connection."
Halep also has a connection to the most recent WTA winner, watching Bianca Andreescu capture the BNP Paribas Open title last weekend.
"I watched some highlights. I saw that she played really well. I knew a few years ago that she’s strong enough to face big, top players. She’s done a great job, and I really want to congratulate her. She has a very good future because she’s young and doesn’t think about the pressure that much at the moment. I think she’s strong enough to handle it."
She and Andreescu - who was born in Ontario, Canada, but is of Romanian parentage - first met in 2016 at the Coupe Rogers in Montréal.
"I remember we practiced together in Canada, at the tournament there, two or three years ago. I just remember telling her that she’s strong enough to make the step into professional tennis. We only practiced, so I couldn’t see a lot, but also I haven’t faced her lately."
Faced with the prospect of a fast-approaching next generation, the 27-year-old jokingly bristled.
"I feel old! When I see 17, 18 year old girls, I start to feel old and I don’t like that."
Still, Halep has appreciated the variety in champions thus far in 2019, as each of the first 13 weeks has featured a different winner for the first time in WTA history.
"It’s a good thing for tennis. It’s good because everyone has a chance to win, and everyone can believe more, that there is a chance for everybody. The fact that the tournaments are open makes it more interesting for the fans, and also for us. It’s not like before, when Serena was winning everything. Now it’s a little bit different."
In a rare doubles appearance, the No.2 seed is playing doubles with Julia Goerges, and will play her first singles match against either Johanna Larsson or American qualifier Taylor Townsend.