DUBAI: Former Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner Simona Halep is ready to build upon her magnificent Australian Open adventure as she seeks to reclaim the title she earned in 2015.
Simona prepared for the 2020 season by training in Dubai and made an outstanding run to the semi-finals of the year’s first Grand Slam which lifted her to number two on the WTA rankings. And it came after an excellent 2019 season that saw her add a Wimbledon trophy to display alongside the one she claimed at Roland Garros a year before.
“We were thrilled to see how Simona Halep performed, not only last year at Wimbledon but throughout 2019,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, Dubai Duty Free. “We are also delighted that she has made such a successful start to the new season in Australia and very much look forward to watching her challenge for the title here once again.”
That Wimbledon triumph saw her not only overwhelm Serena Williams in under an hour, as she became the first Romanian woman to reach the Wimbledon final, and the first Romanian, man or woman, to lift the trophy. She was the 12th woman in the Open Era to win the Wimbledon title on their debut in the final there, and she also became only the fourth active player to reach a Grand Slam final on all surfaces alongside Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters.
“It was my mum’s dream when I was about 10 or 12 years old,” she said of her Wimbledon victory. “She said that if I wanted to do something in tennis then I would have to play the final of Wimbledon. The day came and it was my best match. It was unbelievable.”
Even though seven-times Wimbledon champion Serena began as the favourite, that actually worked in the Romanian’s favour and the occasion wasn’t as difficult to handle as the 2018 French final had been.
“It was different, totally different,” she said after her victory. “The pressure was much bigger in the French Open. The desire was really crazy and the fact that it was my first Grand Slam was special. Also, (at Wimbledon) I was facing Serena and had nothing to lose. I said that if I’m going to win, it’s gonna be something huge. If I lose it’s normal. So I didn’t think about the result that much and it helped me to be more relaxed on court.”
When she returned home, she was greeted by an incredible 30,000 people at the National Stadium in Bucharest as the Romanian Presidential Administration announced that she would receive the highest state distinction of the country, the Order of the Romanian Star.
The Romanian President was full of admiration for her achievements and praised her for her inspirational role, saying, “Through her dedication, devotion and professionalism, confirmed both on the tennis court and out of the court, Simona Halep has promoted our country’s name all over the world. She is a model for the younger generation, and her involvement in popularizing tennis among children is a huge gain for Romanian sports.”
As well as garnering praise from the very highest in her land she has drawn admiration from the best in her profession, with Novak Djokovic revealing that he was especially impressed by how she dealt with the pressure she had to face at Wimbledon.
“She’s got it all. She’s got the game, she’s got the fighting spirit and now she’s got the experience,” said the 17-times Grand Slam champion. “It was really impressive how she handled herself in her first Wimbledon final against an all-time great, Serena, who is a fierce competitor, who has won Wimbledon titles many, many times and has been in that position many times before. Simona showed why she’s a great champion.”
“With her competitive spirit and friendly demeanour it is no surprise that at the end of last season Simona received the WTA Fan Favourite Award for a third straight year,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “There is no doubt as she prepares to make another welcome return to Dubai that she will be a strong favourite to win her second title here.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, begins with the 20th anniversary celebrations of the WTA event which runs from 17th to 22nd February. The tournament then continues between 24th and 29th February with the ATP tournament. Tickets for the 17th – 29th February tournament are available at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com