BUCHAREST, Romania - Former World No.1 Simona Halep brought home a second Grand Slam title to Romania after stunning Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final and, for the second straight year, invited the nation to celebrate with her.
In what has become an annual tradition for the 2018 Roland Garros champion, Halep received another hero's welcome at the Bucharest National Stadium, where she showed off the Venus Rosewater Dish that she earned on Saturday.
She returned to Romania on Tuesday following a whirlwind weekend that saw her play scintillating tennis against the 23-time major champion, earn her spot as an All England Club member, and shine at the Wimbledon Champion's Ball.
"I said it is a chill year," she said after the final, but clarified, "I wanted to relax as a person, not as a player. I still work hard for every day, every match, every tournament. That's why I was able to win this tournament now in this moment.
"I've been professional all the time. I'm happy about what I achieved these two weeks. I can't describe how I feel winning Wimbledon. It's pretty special."
More good news rolled in for Halep as she touched down at Henry Coanda International Airport in Bucharest, as she earned Romania's Order of the Star - the highest distinction in her country - and learned that she will be her country's flagbearer for next year's Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.
Halep, who put national competitions like Fed Cup "on the same stair as the Grand Slams" back at the Qatar Total Open - hours removed from Romania's stunning upset of the Czech Republic in Ostrava - last played the Olympic tennis event in 2012, having missed the Games in 2016.
Ironically enough, her last Olympic experience was at SW19, where she fell in the first round to Yaroslava Shvedova, then a Wimbledon quarterfinalist and the kind of grass court player Halep only dreamed of becoming seven years ago.
"Thinking that is a possibility to win on grass, it was tough to believe because we don't even have a court, grass court, in Romania," she said on Saturday.
"That's something far, but I knew if we were patient and if we worked hard, we would get the feeling of the grass court. So I did this year and I did it pretty well."