SHENZHEN, China - World No.4 Simona Halep kicked off her 2017 campaign on a winning note, beating Jelena Jankovic, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, in the first round of the Shenzhen Open on Monday. A champion in Shenzhen in 2014, Halep played with a notable infusion of power off her forehand side and served effectively get the win. She plays Katerina Siniakova in the second round.
WTA Insider caught up with Halep via telephone after her first win of the season. After a pre-season that saw her switch things up by training in Australia with coach Darren Cahill instead of Romania, Halep says she's refreshed and ready to go after putting in the hard yards in December.
WTA Insider: Congratulations on the win. It was a little bit of a rollercoaster but you got there in the end.
Halep: It's always tough to play against Jelena, she's a good player. Was a tough first round to be honest, to start the year like that was not easy. But I was really proud that I could win against her; even if it was three sets I think it was a good match for the next few weeks.
? WTA (@WTA) January 2, 2017
WTA Insider: It looked like you were really trying to use your forehand a lot during the match. It looks like you're working with Darren to make that shot a weapon.
Halep: No, you're not wrong. I worked a lot on my forehand, actually on everything. Also the serve was much better today. I'm trying just to improve, doing everything that I can, and not thinking too much about the result. Just going there like Darren told me on court: 'Refuse to lose.' I don't want to lose matches. Just playing and giving my best.
? WTA (@WTA) January 2, 2017
WTA Insider: You did your training in Australia this year. That was a bit different for you. How was it?
Halep: It was good! It's a big difference between Romania. It was a good change, I think. I practiced in hot weather and I think it's helping me now. I'm used to the jet lag and the heat. In Romania right now it's minus 15 degrees. So it's a big change and it's helped a lot. I can see it already.
WTA Insider: How was your pre-season go?
Halep: I was a sick a year ago during the off-season. This time I'm ok. I was able to practice as hard as I wanted. I worked hard every day, no days off -- which is a big thing for me.
WTA Insider: Wow, every day?
Halep: Yeah [laughs]. I'm used to taking a day off after two or three days of training but now I kept the days in a row and it's much better. I improved a lot in this, to stay on the court and work and not giving up, it was a big change for me.
WTA Insider: What have you been working on in practice that you saw translated onto the court today?
Halep: Actually we weren't working on anything special. I just wanted to make my game stronger, to be solid and powerful, as much as I can. I'm not very powerful because I'm not two meters tall and I don't have big muscles, but play fast and open the court like I was talking last year about my tactics. To just open the court, play fast, and smart, and improve everything I can. Nothing special. It was normal.
WTA Insider: Do you feel like you got enough rest during the off-season? I know you were quite tired by the time the season ended in Singapore.
Halep: Yeah, I had. Even if I practiced hard and for a long time I had rest and I feel refreshed and ready to start the new season.
? Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) January 1, 2017
WTA Insider: So after the Shenzhen Open you're going straight to Melbourne for the Australian Open?
Halep: Yeah, I go directly there for training.
WTA Insider: Last year you played the week before the Australian Open in Sydney. As the year went on it seemed you tried more to arrive to big tournaments early to spend more time preparing. Is that the case here?
Halep: Exactly. I want to keep that and I want to keep this before the Grand Slams. And we'll see if it's a good thing or not. I have to try.
WTA Insider: So did you do anything fun during your off-season? Other than spend all your time with your new niece?
Halep: Yeah, she's so sweet [laughs]. I miss her already, actually. Yeah, I had enough time to go out a little bit, I went to the mountains, I went to visit some cities in Romania that I never visited before. I had a great time, visiting my family, my friends.
I also spent a lot of time at home. I stayed many hours in my home and just chilling, doing nothing. It was the best way to relax for me, not having a schedule.
WTA Insider: Do you have any New Year's resolutions?
Halep: I'm not thinking that much about results. I just want to improve more. I improved a lot I feel like during the off-season but I still want to work hard and keep the routine at the highest level and to do everything that I did during the off-season.
I just want to win matches. I don't want to put pressure on myself to speak about Grand Slams or titles. Of course the main reason I'm working is to win matches and win titles, but I don't want to think about that. I just take it as nothing special and just going to do my best every time I can.