MELBOURNE (Reuters) - World number three Simona Halep does find it difficult to walk around her home town these days without being asked for a photo, but she shrugged off any expectations or feelings of additional pressure ahead of the Australian Open.
After a superlative 2013 when she won six titles and jumped 36 placings in the rankings to 11th, the 23-year-old cracked the big time in women’s tennis in 2014.
She made her first grand slam quarter-final at Melbourne Park before losing to Maria Sharapova in the Roland Garros final.
Halep also made the Wimbledon semi-finals and finished the year losing to Serena Williams in the WTA Finals in Singapore and ranked third.
“Sometimes when I go in the city, it’s tough, because everyone is coming to ask for a picture,” Halep told reporters on Saturday. “(But) I’m not surprised that I had big results last year because two years ago I just started to win some titles.
“I had more experience than before. I was improving a lot in my game. I’m much stronger now than before. My game is complete now (and) I believe in my game.
“I can say now I feel no pressure. I have just to play my game and to see how ... many matches I can win.
“I have no pressure.”
Halep acknowledged she had been surprised to have reached the French Open final last year and become the first women from her country to reach a grand slam final in 34 years.
“I think I was a little bit ...surprised with the finals in French Open because I didn’t expect that I can play finals after just one quarter-finals in grand slam,” she said.
“But I had nothing to lose there (and) everything went in the right way at that tournament.”
Halep, who plays Italy’s Karen Knapp in the first round and has been drawn on the same side of the draw as Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard and Sharapova, said she felt the year’s opening grand slam was open for anyone inside the top-20 to take.
“I was thinking a few days ago that even if I am third in the rankings, I have my chance, but is not like I (will) be in the semi-finals or in the finals.
“Everyone from top-20 I can say has their own chance to win this title ... the tournament is open for everyone.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty