PARIS, France - World No.1 Simona Halep says she's pleased to see the collective return of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Maria Sharapova in the draw of a Slam. The last time all three champions were in the main draw of a Slam came at the 2016 Australian Open.
"Of course it's great for tennis that Serena's back," Halep told reporters on Media Day at Roland Garros. "Maybe she needs a little bit more time to get again used to the tournaments and everyday playing. In my opinion, I said many times, that she's able to come back and to win again tournaments. She knows how to handle the pressure, how to handle all the situations. She's there for so many years. So I think she will come back, and she will be good again."
"I feel that now everyone is here, it feels that the tournament is completed. Everyone is here just to show that tennis is really nice and also that everyone can win it. And these girls are coming back, Vika, Serena, with the kid, which is amazing. Makes it a little bit different and also special."
The two-time French Open finalist dismissed any title talk on the eve of the tournament. She will open her tournament against American Alison Riske in the first round.
"I know that every match is going to be very tough," Halep said. "It's a Grand Slam. Everyone is at the highest level here. So it's going to be difficult.
"I'm not thinking about the title, because it's really far. I'm thinking just of my first match. It's going to be a tough one, but I have my chance. So I will go there and I will take it day by day."
Halep comes into Paris on the short-list of favorites once again. In her last four appearances at Roland Garros she had made the final twice. It's a city that brings good vibes for the 26-year-old, who has had a strong, but not spectacular, clay season. In her three-tournament run-up, Halep made the Stuttgart quarterfinals (l. Vandeweghe), Madrid semifinals (l. Pliskova), and Rome final (l. Svitolina).
"Well, a year ago was not about defending so many points, so it was a little bit different. This year I come with, I can say, this pressure, but I don't want to focus on that one.
"Of course I have more confidence this year, because last year I was able to do a great result. But that doesn't mean that this year is going to be the same or can be better. You never know. So I will take day by day, and I will see how the tournament goes, and then we all will know."
Halep is 2-0 against Riske, though their last match on hard court went a full three sets in Shenzhen last year.
"She is a fighter girl, so she's not giving up at all, and I have just to be the same and to stay focused for every ball," Halep said. "I expect a tough one, because it's also the first round of the tournament, and it's normal to be a little bit nervous, but I know I have my chance, and for sure I will fight for it."