Defending champion Simon Halep was all smiles during her Media Day meeting with the press ahead of her debut at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2021. The Romanian had a first taste of the condition of the courts this morning during a practice with Karolina Pliskova, whom she had defeated last Autumn during the final.
“The weather is beautiful. The courts are beautiful. The club is beautiful. So, everything is beautiful here in Roma. I’m really happy to be here. It’s alive and the energy is nice”, she said to the press with a broad smile to testify in defence of what she said: “I had the chance to practice this morning. Yeah, it’s first practice, so it’s never great from the first moment, but I feel good. I’m looking forward to starting the tournament. I’m excited to be here”.
It is not surprising to find Halep in a good mood in Rome, as she has never been hiding her love for these courts and this venue. On the Foro Italico, she had her first real breakthrough in 2013, when she reached the semi-final from the qualies. Ever since, she had dreamed about winning this elusive trophy, which finally found the way to her home cabinet last year.
“It’s weird that six months ago I have been here”, she smirked as she was reminded of her winning week from the exceptional autumnal edition of the Internazionali: “You know, it’s a little bit different. It’s nice because it’s one of my favourite tournaments. I have no expectations and no pressure about defending the title, because it’s another year. It’s different time. But I’m excited to be here, so I just want to give my best. As you saw, the first round is going to be very, very tough. I’m just here to give what I have”.
Her first match in Rome might be against former world number one Angelique Kerber, who will be opening her tournament against a qualifier.
“(It is) a very tough draw”, admitted Halep talking about ‘Angie’: “Always when I played against her the matches were tough. So, I expect a tough battle, and I just want to give my best”.
Coming from a tough loss against Elise Mertens in Madrid, the Romanian reflected on that match and her current level, which to her eyes is not far from where she wants it to be.
“I think the game looked okay. I don’t really have regrets about that (loss)”, she explained: “But I can say attitude a little bit; I need to calm down a little bit, not rushing that much and to stop missing in the important moments. But those things I think are coming with more matches, so I’m just looking forward to have as many as possible until French Open. This tournament is going to be important and taking the pressure away, because it’s a nice time now. We are back at the tournaments and kind of normal, soon it’s gonna be normal. Yeah, I have just to enjoy and to relax. I need that”.