Simona Halep thankful for French Open chance after virus upheaval

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Simona Halep (PA)
Simona Halep (PA)

French Open favourite Simona Halep said on Friday she was grateful to just have the chance to play at Roland Garros this year after the tennis calendar was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic.

Delayed four months from its traditional spring billing, players must contend with vastly different conditions and far cooler temperatures than they are used to in the French capital.

"To play Roland Garros in September, end of September, it's a little bit weird," said Halep, the 2018 champion.

"But it's nice that we have the chance to play at this tournament. We should actually thank everyone for fighting so hard to make it possible."

The Romanian was among six top 10 players to skip the recent US Open over Covid-19 fears, but the extended lay-off has not impacted her form.

Halep comes into the competition owning a 20-2 record this season. She has won her last three events, in Dubai before the virus shutdown, and then titles on clay in Prague and Rome.

The top seed begins her campaign against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo and can return to the number one ranking with a second French Open title.

With defending champion Ashleigh Barty opting not to play and US Open winner Naomi Osaka sidelined by injury, Halep is the only top three representative in the field here.

"I'm honoured to hear that I am the favourite, people thinking that I'm the favourite. But I don't look in that direction," said Halep.

"It's not extra pressure. I'm used to this kind of pressure because I've been No. 1 seeded in the past. I've been in this position," she added.

"I take it as a normal tournament. So no extra pressure for me, it's just a positive pressure that I have."

'Feel the cold'

Conditions are expected to be heavier with rain forecast for much of the first week. Fortunately, the showpiece Philippe Chatrier Court will debut its new retractable roof.

Halep, unbeaten in 14 matches, is confident she will adjust to whatever challenges arise.

"When it's cold, it's a little bit heavier and a little bit different. It's a big difference between Rome and here, that's for sure. 15 degrees less," she said.

"I feel the cold. I feel like struggling a little bit. But for everybody is the same.

"Every time I play on these courts I like because they are a little bit harder and the ball bounces a little bit more. The conditions are good for me, in my opinion."

Halep, who is also the Wimbledon champion, has reached the final in Paris on three occasions - in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

Maria Sharapova got the better of her in 2014 with a shock loss to unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko three years ago.

Halep, however, eventually made her major breakthrough 12 months later when she beat Sloane Stephens for the title in Paris.

"Every tournament I play, it's a dream to win it. French Open is very special because it was the first Grand Slam. It will stay forever like this," said Halep.

"Every time I come here I have the desire to play as good as possible and to go till the end. But as we know, every match is a battle, every match is very tough. I'm not thinking about the title right now."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
loading... Live
Mumbai Indians 0
Royal Challengers Bangalore 164/6
Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Rugby
42% - 8940 votes
Cricket
11% - 2308 votes
Football
19% - 4081 votes
Athletics
2% - 528 votes
Boxing
1% - 191 votes
Cycling
2% - 496 votes
Golf
5% - 1042 votes
Motorsport
9% - 1813 votes
Tennis
3% - 726 votes
Water sports
1% - 198 votes
American sports
1% - 266 votes
MMA / WWE / UFC
3% - 672 votes
Vote