Buoyant Halep eyes maiden grand slam in 2015

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 15, 2015 11:36 AM

By Matt Smith

DUBAI (Reuters) - Romania's Simona Halep believes she now has the mental fortitude to claim a maiden grand slam title and complete a remarkable rise that has propelled from outsider to world number.

Top seed at this week's Dubai Championships where two years ago she had to qualify, Halep is now one of the names bandied about when it comes to discussing major winners.

Last year she was one of the most consistent performers in the big tournaments, finishing runner-up to Maria Sharapova at the French Open and making the last four at Wimbledon and the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

"The difference is in my mind because I believe I can play well in grand slams, I tried everything to relax my mind and body and play for every match and point," Halep told reporters in Dubai where she has a bye in the first round.

"I just needed time to believe I can beat top players -- day by day, match by match I got confidence, but I still have to work more on my game and my mind as well."

Such a diagnosis comes after Halep fell in the quarter-finals of January's Australian Open following a 6-4 6-0 humbling by Russia's Ekaterina Makarova.

"It's my dream to win a grand slam title," said Halep. "I still have to work hard, to have more matches in grand slams because I need experience.

"You need experience and a little bit of luck."

She became Dubai's top seed after 19-time grand slam champion Serena Williams withdrew due to illness and the 23-year-old's most likely challengers at the Aviation Club are two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, U.S Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki and former French Open winner Ana Ivanovic.

"Serena's (illness) has opened this tournament up, now everyone from the top 10-15 can win," added Halep.

"I don't want to think that I'm first seed I just want to take it match by match and see how good I can be.

"I think everyone is trying to beat me now because I'm in the top 10. I was the same before when I was in the top 50 and tried to play better tennis than normal against those above me."

(Reporting by Matt Smith; editing by Michael Hann)