World No.1 Simona Halep is learning how to be kinder with herself. But that doesn't mean she's gone soft.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
March 8, 2018

INDIAN WELLS, USA - World No.1 Simona Halep took a much-needed break from her racquets after making the semifinals in Doha, where she was forced to withdraw due to an ongoing foot injury. Halep did not start hitting again until late last week, when she reunited with coach Darren Cahill in Las Vegas to prepare for the BNP Paribas Open. She admitted to some rust but says the mental break was just what she needed to recover from the lingering effects of her grueling run to the Australian Open final in January. 

"How many weeks has it been since then?" Halep said with a laugh at All Access Hour at the BNP Paribas Open, after being asked how long it took her to recover from Australia. "So I can say that now I am recovered. It was tough."

Highlights from the 2015 champion's media roundtable at All Access Hour on Wednesday:

On whether she intends to take more intentional breaks from tournaments throughout the year:

"If I’ll repeat the result like I did in Melbourne, I’ll take more breaks. But now I know that after this period I know it’s really important to have the rhythm and to keep it so it’s tough to take a break, come back, then take a break again. Because the rhythm is lost and your body isn’t used to it, you start to have some pain everywhere and you need some days, maybe weeks to get back to the rhythm. So I don’t look forward to have more breaks but if I play a good tournament I’ll take some days off."

On the pressure of playing as World No.1:

"I don’t feel the pressure for sure and I never felt it since I’ve touched this place. I enjoy the time being here. Of course, maybe the expectations are higher now, I expect more from myself but I’m trying also to understand what is happening. Also here when I came I was a bit upset and sad on court because I didn’t feel the ball straightaway but my coach Darren told me ‘You [had] about three weeks off so it’s normal to be up and down.’ I’m just thinking to improve my game more, to keep working and once I go there I’m not thinking anymore about the ranking. I’m just training for a Grand Slam and to win titles."

On what she learned after finally achieving the No.1 ranking last fall:

"I have learned that I’m able to do great things. Of course it was one of my dreams to get to No. 1 but I never believed 100 percent that I’m able to do that and after I did it, it was like a relief and it gave me power that I can go ahead and do better things. So I’m thinking now that everything is open and I’m able to do anything."

On managing her perfectionist tendencies:

"I’m always looking for perfection but at the same time I know it doesn’t exist. So it’s a little bit weird there why I’m thinking that, as I know it doesn’t exist. But now I have worked with [a sports psychologist] in this direction to be kind with myself and to understand that sometimes I cannot be 100 percent on court and I just need some time. So I do well in that direction and that’s why maybe I could be No.1."

"I don’t want to calm down that thing, I still want to be a fighter, I still want to get furious on court, because that helps me. I don’t throw the racquet any more, which is a great thing. But you know I just want to be kind during the matches when I criticise myself and when I miss a ball I talk too hard with me. I have just to accept it straightaway and think about the next point."

Halep opens her Indian Wells campaign against Kristyna Pliskova on Friday.