PARIS, France - 2018 Roland Garros champion Simona Halep joins the WTA Insider Podcast a day after her emotional triumph to reflect on her bumpy journey to her first major title.
"I didn't sleep much last night but I slept with the trophy next to me like a kid with a toy," Halep said on the WTA Insider Podcast.
The World No.1 rallied from a set and a break down in Saturday's French Open final to defeat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to snap her 0-3 streak in major finals and hoist the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen 10 years after winning the junior girls title. With the win, Halep became the first player to ever win her maiden Slam as a reigning World No.1 and her successful fortnight consolidated her spot atop the WTA rankings.
Listen to Halep's full interview - including a surprise cameo from Toni Nadal - on the newest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast below:
WTA Insider: When you woke up this morning, did you feel any different?
Halep: Not really. Just a little bit of relief that everything is finished and I won it, finally. I didn't sleep much last night but I slept with the trophy next to me like a kid with a toy. Yeah, it was a special night.
WTA Insider: Have you have any quiet moments since winning the title about 24 hours ago?
Halep: It's been with many people around me. We had a little party with everyone last night, but then I went to my room and I could calm down a little bit and just feel what just happened. Darren told me I don't realize yet what happened. But for sure in the next days I will feel it more. Now I feel normal.
WTA Insider: What were the thoughts coming to your mind now that no one was talking to you?
Halep: The mind was focused only on the matches I had here, all the way through these years that I've played this sport. All the tough moments also. And the fact that after three finals, I was able to win this, my first Grand Slam in Paris. I was smiling, smiling alone.
WTA Insider: When you think of the tougher moments, we have discussed a lot of them. But are there tough moments that we don't know about?
Halep: Not really. When I was injured, a few injuries I had were tough. The back in 2013, 2008 as well. I'm pretty ok. I had a nice journey. It was not with a lot of suffering. Just those finals that I lost, the three of them, they were probably the toughest moments in tennis. Just those.
WTA Insider: How has it felt to have to live all those tough moments very publicly. We've seen it, we've talked to you afterward, you've always been good about being open and talking about it. But it couldn't have been easy.
Halep: No, I think that helped me. To relieve myself and to share with people what I felt in those moments. I just left them in the rooms where we talked about it, and then I just tried to recover and think positive because I have so many years ahead to play tennis. I took only the positive. I tried and I worked a lot to turn my negative parts to positive parts, because of Darren, of course, and it's much better like that.
WTA Insider: One of the moments that sticks out to me in your journey is that Miami timeout. You said 'this is my character, this is who I am' in a very negative moment. That was a very revealing moment. I have always wondered if anyone can change their character.
Halep: I can say I know the differences, but I cannot say that I changed my character. The inside fire is still there, I just worked on controlling those moments. I did a pretty good job in the last year, year and a half. In my opinion, you never can change your character, just improving and controlling it.
WTA Insider: You always described yourself as 'fighter girl' from way back when. You've said this process has taught you that maybe you weren't the fighter that you thought you were back then. Can you elaborate on that?
Halep: You never know how strong you are until you push yourself the maximum level, which I did. The fact that I learned to not give up anymore, I think that is the biggest step I've done to be able to win this tournament. If you have that fire inside yourself, you have to let it help you during the matches, but also control it. Also the happiness after the matches, also the suffering when you lose the matches.
You have to have the balance, to control yourself and understand yourself and also accept yourself. I didn't accept that I was that negative before, so I didn't realize it maybe. But once I started to realize it and accept that I am like that, and accept the advice that I have to change in that direction it was much better. I could feel it in my personal life as well, that I am more relaxed and I am happier.
WTA Insider: It seemed like you weren't fighting it. You use that word a lot, 'embracing it'.
Halep: And accepting myself. I think the most important thing for a person is to accept the way you are and then work on it to get better.
WTA Insider: Is yesterday's match a blur to you?
Halep: I remember the first set that I was a little bit panicked, that I didn't know what I had to play to come back. But after 2-0 and coming to the net three times in a row. Something clicked and I said now I have to be aggressive. Starting that point, I knew how to play.
I remember the 3-0, break point, that long rally, I said that if I won this the match is mine.
WTA Insider: It seemed like you won that match mentally but also physically. Again, looking back at your journey, you ran out of gas in the final in Melbourne. Here, you came through.
Halep: Exactly. After Melbourne, after I had that crazy run, I didn't stop training. I did fitness every day. I hate that, I can say. I don't like being in the gym.
But I realized in these years, since I've been in the top, that without the gym you cannot be there. So at this point, the gym is more important than the tennis because tennis I have played for 20 years already. But now I feel stronger physically, and the fact that I touched a bigger limit, or a deeper limit in Melbourne, helped me today to feel like I could play for five hours.
WTA Insider: If you could go back and tell the girl who won the 2008 girls title something, what would you say.
Halep: First and the only thing, is to try and control the inside fire and the nerves. I'm a very emotional person, so if I can control that then I can play my best tennis.
WTA Insider: Does it feel complete? Relief? That you crossed the finish line? Or does it feel like a step forward? What's the feeling right now?
Halep: Well I feel complete, definitely. But I feel that I want to play more.
Last night when I talked to you guys and you asked me about Wimbledon, I was like oh, I need a break. But in the room when I was thinking, I really was waiting to go on grass and to go to play. I like this atmosphere, I like this tennis family. For sure I will not stop. I will keep playing and I will keep dreaming for more.
WTA Insider: You got a lot of messages and you said you got emotional. What really hit home for you?
Halep: First it's nice that many, many, many tennis players were happy for me winning this first Grand Slam. I think that was the most emotional moment. I cannot say that I'm used to the fans being next to me, because every time it's a special atmosphere, but to see the players you're playing against are happy for you, it's very special.
WTA Insider: Congratulations. We'll see you on the grass.
Halep: Yes. See you there.
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This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.