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No. 1 Halep has new-found confidence ahead of Aussie Open

Simona Halep was once making an attempt on her new sneakers when she were given the scoop direct from the draw about her tricky phase containing each Serena and Venus Williams on the Australian Open.

Even earlier than she contemplates imaginable back-to-back fits within the 3rd and fourth around in opposition to Venus and Serena, top-ranked Halep has to get via a gap fit in opposition to Kaia Kanepi, who beat her within the first around on the U.S. Open closing yr.

Darren Cahill, a TV commentator and Halep’s trainer till just lately, texted her with main points of the draw.

“After I noticed the message, I used to be like, ‘Good enough, no matter,'” she mentioned. “I simply benefit from the second with the sneakers, then I’m going to take into consideration the fit. That is it.”

She will be able to do this now that she considers herself a real No. 1. Halep entered closing yr with the top-ranking however with out a primary to her credit score.

After dropping a tricky, three-set ultimate to Caroline Wozniacki on the Australian Open, she in brief misplaced the No. 1 spot however regained it briefly and will likely be into her 48th consecutive week within the height spot when the season’s first primary begins. Her leap forward on the French Open gave her all of the affirmation she’d ever wanted.

“It is a large distinction — I will say inside of myself as a result of I did what I sought after to do. I gained a Grand Slam in any case. Now I will say I am an actual No. 1,” Halep mentioned of the adaptation between her approaches to this season and to closing. “Earlier than I mentioned with out a Grand Slam, you don’t seem to be an actual No. 1.

“I am satisfied. I am taking part in the time. The whole lot I have executed closing yr made me be extra comfortable. I check out simply to make stronger extra in my recreation.”

Halep misplaced 4 directly fits to complete 2018, hampered via a again harm, and was once crushed via Ashleigh Barty on the Sydney World to start out this season. However she says her again is okay. She’s additionally with out a trainer in Melbourne, an appointment she’s taking time to believe.

U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka looms as a possible semifinal rival for Halep, or Serena Williams, or whoever comes out of the cruel height quarter.

So much has modified for Osaka since taking pictures her first primary identify in New York closing September, having by no means even reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam match.

Her victory there was once overshadowed to some extent via Serena Williams’ conflict with chair umpire Carlos Ramos all through the general and next $17,000 high quality.

Williams ignored the closing Australian Open — she gained right here in 2017 whilst pregnant and was once nonetheless at the sidelines after having her child — however reached two primary finals after returning to tennis. In spite of being seeded 16th, she stays a robust contender to win her 24th Grand Slam singles identify.

Osaka, in the meantime, is finding out as she is going.

The 21-year-old mentioned she’s moderately awkward in one-on-one conversations, however feels extra at house answering questions and throwing in one-liners at packed information meetings.

As for her objectives right here, in a ladies’s box that has featured 8 other primary winners around the closing two years, Osaka mentioned it is a paintings in growth, beginning along with her first-round in opposition to Magda Linette on Tuesday.

“Nobody desires to lose within the first around of a Slam,” she mentioned. “From there, I have been within the 3rd around 100 million instances (in fact it is 9 instances) already. That may be my subsequent purpose. Optimistically semis after that. Then I will take into consideration, like, the finals and successful.”

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Extra AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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