Melbourne, Australia | AFP | World number one Simona Halep Saturday admitted losing the 2018 Australian Open final was a painful moment, but it taught her how to better handle pressure situations which she has since put to good use.
The Romanian was targeting a first ever Grand Slam title in that match against Caroline Wozniacki and looked on track to win before folding in the third set.
Halep had won her service game and then broke the Dane to get a 4–3 lead.
She served for what would have been a 5–3 advantage but Wozniacki broke then held serve for lead 5–4. The fired-up Dane went on to break again and win 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-4, leaving Halep crushed.
“I didn’t want to think that much about that match because it was really painful to lose it,” she said at Melbourne Park when asked to reflect on what went wrong.
“But I learned some things from that match. That break (at 4-3) broke me a little bit in that moment.
“Now I know how to manage better if that happens again.
“She was better at that moment and maybe fresher than me because I played so many long matches before. She was actually less tired than me and deserved to win. She was stronger,” she added.
A gutsy Halep took what she learned into the next major of the year, the French Open, and made no similar mistakes, romping through the third set of the final 6-1 against Sloane Stephens to finally clinch her maiden Slam title.
“It made a big difference (because) I can say inside myself I did what I wanted to do. I won a Grand Slam finally,” said the 27-year-old.
“Now I can say I’m a real number one Before I said without a Grand Slam, you are not a real number one.
“I’m happy. I’m enjoying the time. Everything I’ve done last year made me be more relaxed,” she added.
– Chill out –
The stellar year saw Halep end 2018 as the world number one, despite her season ending early in October when she suffered a herniated disc in her back.
She called the injury “very scary” and literally did nothing for six weeks to get over it.
But the lay-off means she will start her Australian Open campaign against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi with limited court time after crashing out of the warm-up Sydney International at the first hurdle.