SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Simona Halep is still searching for her first grand slam title but the Romanian admits the consolation of ending the year as world number one will help to motivate her for another tilt at a major title breakthrough next season.
The 26-year-old suffered a crushing defeat to an inspired Jelena Ostapenko in the French Open final in June, her second title-match loss at Roland Garros, but a win over the Latvian in Beijing this month took her to the top of the rankings.
“Well, I can say that it’s a great feeling that I can finish the year number one,” Halep told reporters at the WTA Finals in Singapore on Sunday after it was confirmed she would remain as number one until the start of 2018.
“Of course, the best moment was on court when I won against Ostapenko in Beijing. But also it’s more special to finish the year, as we can see that less players finished the year as number one in the world and I think it’s more difficult to do that.”
Halep, who failed to make it out of the round-robin phase in a Singapore tournament won by Caroline Wozniacki on Sunday, said she was relaxed now but expected the burden of the ranking to rise when the next campaign begins.
“Well, now I don’t feel any pressure because the season is finished but I can imagine that it’s going to be a little bit more difficult,” she added.
“I have to work harder to stay there but in my mind now is just to enjoy the moment and we will see.
“I touched everything I wanted about my dream in this way because I have many others. But I just want to be relaxed, to enjoy tennis more and to give my best every time I go on court. I think this is everything I can ask from myself.”
The Romanian enjoyed a frustrating campaign in terms of tournament wins, claiming just one title at the Madrid Open, but Halep was keen to stress that it was another season in which she was able to learn more about herself.
“I had many ups and downs but I was consistent, in my opinion,” she added.
“It was a tough one. Of course every week I went back on court, working. Even when I lost in the first round at the U.S. Open, I went back on court and I tried to improve in my game, which I did.
“I’m really happy that I could stay constant, which is the best thing, I think, for a player. And also that I’m fit. I have no problems now, no injuries. So I’m just trying to make the off-season better and to start the next year better.”
Editing by Clare Fallon