World No.2 Simona Halep is likely to have to topple Serena Williams to win her maiden grand slam this month, but the Romanian insists she’s not daunted by the prospect.
The 24-year-old’s trophy cabinet remains empty as she heads to Melbourne battling a niggling Achilles injury.
Barring a shock defeat for Williams, Halep will need to conquer the American for just the second time in her career to win the n Open, but she is adamant she is in the right frame of mind to repeat what she accomplished in Singapore against Williams in 2014.
“I beat Serena once in my life, so it’s really important for me,” Halep, who has won just one of seven matches against Williams, said ahead of the Sydney International.
“It’s not easy to face Serena, of course. She’s a big player, she’s the best player in the world. But I have to believe, every time when I go against her on court, because when I played in Singapore, I have great memories from there.
“When I went to the tournament, I felt I had everything to beat her. So if I believe this when I go against her on court, we’ll be OK. But if not, I have no chance. To meet Serena, it means that I have to do finals. So let’s go there in Melbourne to see if I can be there.”
But this year’s n Open is as open as it has been in recent years with top seeds Williams, Halep and Maria Sharapova heading into the tournament with injury concerns that forced them out of their respective season-opening tournaments in .
Halep said she is beginning to feel confident with the Achilles injury that has hampered her preparations.
“I’m better than Brisbane,” she said.
“It’s always difficult to treat an Achilles problem. I think it’s the toughest part. But now I feel better. I could practise two days in a row, almost full. I did some points, so I think I’m ready to start this tournament. I know that it’s going to be a difficult match, but it’s OK and I really want to have a match before Melbourne.
“The problem I think it’s still there but now I don’t feel pain any more. So I have to see during the official match, because it’s much different. It’s not easy but I have to be positive, I don’t have to be scared when I go to play the official match. We didn’t speak about surgery. The MRI is OK. It’s nothing dangerous there, but still I had an inflammation. It’s not that dangerous but it still is there.”
Halep has reached the quarter-final of the n Open the past two years, reaching the final eight in five of the past eight grand slams.
Her best result, however, is a finals appearance at the French Open in 2014, bowing out against Maria Sharapova.
”I think I have to be more confident in myself to believe that I can win it,” said Halep, who is coached by n Darren Cahill.
“If you believe that you can win it, you can do it. If not, it’s more difficult.
“I feel that I’m ready. I have the game, I have the physical training every day good. I’m practising well, I’m practising hard. So we’ll see. I know it’s difficult. I know you have to be strong. I feel that I am, but still I have to go step by step.”