PARIS (Reuters) - On the 10th anniversary of her triumph in the Roland Garros girls’ competition, Simona Halep is being tipped to hoist the more prestigious Suzanne Lenglen Cup and join an exclusive club of players to achieve the junior and women’s title double.
However, rather than allowing herself to dream that she can follow in the footsteps of Francoise Durr, Mima Jausovec, Hana Mandlikova, Jennifer Capriati and Justine Henin, the Romanian top seed was quick to play down her chances.
“I would say the top 10 girls have the chance to win here. So there are 10 girls, in my opinion, that can win this tournament,” twice runner-up Halep said on Thursday following her 6-3 6-1 second round win over American wildcard Taylor Townsend.
But given a reminder that she is seeded to meet Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki in the final, the crowd favourite shook her head and said: “I don’t think about that at all. It’s really far away.”
Considering she was nine points from winning the title before blowing away a 6-4 3-0 lead against surprise champion Jelena Ostapenko in last year’s final, no one can blame Halep for not wanting to think about a perfect ending so early in the tournament.
But how have things changed for the Romanian since she first captivated hearts in Paris as 16-year-old junior?
“Whoa. Many things changed and also I have changed. I see things differently,” Halep, who will next meet Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, said with a smile.
“In the past, I felt the pleasure, but I couldn’t show it, so now I relax. I’m more positive. And maybe that’s why everyone sees that I’m happier on court. I was the same before but I couldn’t show it.
“Now I’m more open to people, I’m also open to (playing) the tough matches. So even if I have trouble during the matches, I like to stay there, to fight,” added Halep, who needs to reach at least the semi-finals in Paris to have a chance of holding on to her top ranking.
“If I win it, I’m really, really thankful for what I have done. So everything’s changed in these years.
“Because I won 10 years ago I feel at home here. So that’s why I come every time to play with pleasure.”
Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg