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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday January 22, 2022

Simona Halep

Simona Halep is feeling fit and looking like a contender for the title in Melbourne.

Photo Source: Getty

Simona Halep had a 2021 to forget in terms of tennis, the Romanian struggling with a calf injury that knocked her out of Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the Olympics as well as ending her remarkable stretch of 373 consecutive weeks in the Top-10.

Tennis Express

But Halep is back on track in 2022, and looking like the odds-on favorite to reach the semifinals in her section of the draw at the Australian Open. No.3 seed Garbiñe Muguruza and No.6 seed Anett Kontaveit have been eliminated, as well as Emma Raducanu, the No.17 seed, and Halep is slated to face unseeded Alizé Cornet in the round of 16.

It’s a nice break from the draw gods, but Halep is playing so well that she doesn’t appear to need any help. She’s now riding an eight-match winning streak after easing past Montenegrin Danka Kovinic on Day 6, 6-2, 6-1, behind 19 winners and 17 unforced errors.

After the win on a balmy Melbourne Saturday, Halep finds herself in good spirits – and good health.

“I feel great physically first of all,” she said. “Mentally I'm confident and also strong, I would say. Feeling the game. Feeling joy out there. I think that helps me to be positive and to be confident that I have a chance every time I step on the court.

“I feel I'm in a good spot. I really trust that I can play good tennis here.”

The two-time major champion improves to 31-11 at the Australian Open, where she was a runner-up in 2018. She says that 2021, while excruciating, helped create a positive mindset: she now feels like the hunter rather than the hunted.

“I feel fresh,” Halep said. “I feel that the pressure is off. I feel also that I have expectations from myself, but they are good expectations because I have worked a lot in the off-season. I have no injuries. That helps me to be in a good spot mentally and also with confidence.

“Last year I was super agitated and super nervous on court. This year I feel like I'm very stable.”

After a season of injury disruptions and doubts about her long-term future – not her desire to play but her ability to stay healthly – the 30-year-old says the toughest part of 2021 was losing trust in her body. A quintessential baseliner, Halep relies on her wheels and her fight to thrive on tour. Without her legs firmly beneath her she felt lost.

But those worries are in the past, and Halep is thriving again.

“The lowest point was mental because I've been exhausted and I've been a little bit scared of the injuries,” she said. “I didn't think that I want to stop tennis because I don't like tennis anymore, I felt that I might stop tennis because of the injuries. But was nothing strong in my mind.

“I still like to play tennis, to play tournaments, so I'm in a good spot now. I don't want to remember last year that much.”


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