RG Champions: Simona Halep

 - Amandine Reymond

Finalist in 2014 and 2017, Simona Halep made Roland-Garros history with her success in 2018.

Simona Halep with the trophy at Roland-Garros 2018©Pauline Ballet / FFT

Roland-Garros and Simona Halep go back a long way. From her junior title in 2008 to her women’s singles victory in 2018, Simona Halep has experienced some of the most emotional moments of her career on the red clay in the Porte d’Auteuil.

A long story

She was just 16 when she won the junior tournament in Paris. “When I won the tournament here, I also became the Junior World No.1. That gave me a huge confidence boost which was really important at the time because it made me think that, if I could win the junior title, I could turn professional.

Having been issued a wildcard by the tournament organisers, Halep made her qualifying round debut in 2009. A year later, she came through the qualifying tournament to play her first ever Grand Slam main draw match in Paris.

Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep posing with the 2014 Roland-Garros trophy©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Three finals, one title

Long hindered by injury, she gradually made her way up the WTA rankings and entered the Top 15 in 2013. A few months later, she played her first ever Grand Slam final at Roland-Garros. Despite playing well, the Romanian was defeated in three tight sets (6-4 6-7(5) 6-4) by Maria Sharapova. “Maybe I wasn’t ready, my mindset wasn’t strong enough. I felt terrible for a few months but I kept working hard, kept believing…

And her hard work paid off! In 2017, Halep played her second final on Philippe-Chatrier court, this time losing to Jelena Ostapenko (4-6 6-4 6-3). Her disappointment was assuaged a year later when, having taking the World No.1 crown a few months earlier and cheered on by shouts of “SI-MO-NA, SI-MO-NA”  from the stands, she finally lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen after defeating Sloane Stephens (3-6 6-4 6-1).

"An immense feeling of joy"

Ten years after her junior title, Simona Halep won her first Grand Slam title and joined the ranks of eleven other champions who, like her idol Justine Henin, had won both the junior tournament and the main tournament at Roland-Garros.

I’m delighted that I won my first Grand Slam here! I was more mature and more experienced and I didn’t let my emotions get in the way. The pressure was off and I was overcome by an immense feeling of joy. There was none of the pain usually felt after such a demanding tournament, I was just happy that my dream had come true and that the match was over, because it was a difficult one.

Having become a household name in her home country, where she was treated to a heroine’s welcome after her Parisian victory, and again after her win at Wimbledon in 2019, Simona Halep was chosen to be Romania’s flag-bearer at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics.