By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Women’s top seeds Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbiñe Muguruza and Elina Svitolina chat to the press before the tournament
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Season-opening champions, injury scares, and crazy thoughts – we hear from the Women’s top four ahead of the Australian Open.

 

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[1] Simona Halep

  • Slam Finals 2
  • Slam Titles 0

For those who watched Simona Halep‘s many battles with her inner demons in 2017, to see her finally capture the World No. 1 ranking was as much a relief for us as it was for her. This tournament heralds the start of something new – she comes into the Australian Open as the top seed, and is still chasing that elusive maiden Slam. In a wide open field, does this represent the best chance she has for a major?

“About the ranking, for sure doesn’t matter any more what is going to happen. Of course, I want to stay here in the top as long as possible. But I’m not doing everything for this reason.

“I have one more goal: to win a Grand Slam. If it’s going to happen in one day… But now I’m focusing on my game. I really want to get better and to improve in what I had less good.”

What is perhaps strange is that Halep came to the end of her sponsorship with Adidas, and while her team are in the midst of trying to secure a new deal, Halep the ever-resourceful found an internet supplier to set her up with her outfit.

“I sent a picture. Was a site, in China actually, and one of my managers helped me, and in 24 hours I had the outfit, and were perfect (smiling). I was lucky. I chose the model. But it’s plain, come on. Nothing special there. It looks good, in my opinion. I like it”

The lucky red dress, that took her to a season-opening title in Shenzhen will be gracing the courts this tournament.

 

[2] Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki © Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

  • Slam Finals 2
  • Slam Titles 0

Caroline Wozniacki comes into the Australian Open in perhaps the best form of her life. Having occupied the World No. 1 spot for 67 weeks as well as year-end No. 1 for two years in a row (2010, 2011), there is little else for the Dane to achieve, other than that elusive Slam title.

Having won the the WTA Finals at the end of last year, her biggest title to date, just how much pressure is on an older and wiser Wozniacki?

“[The desire to win a Grand Slam is] still the same, I’m still here.

“I don’t put more, I don’t put less pressure. It’s just the same, you know. It’s a new tournament, a new year. I’m healthy. I have the opportunity to play here. I’m just going to enjoy that, see where it takes me.”

Interestingly there was more questions on the race to take over No. 1 with five players in the mix at the start of the season to wrestle the top spot from Halep, but Wozniacki has been there and done that.

“I think it is something that would always be special and really awesome. At the same time, you know, I’m just doing what I can do. I’m just playing here right now. That’s what I’m focusing on. Everything else will kind of fall into place.

“If I do it, that would be amazing. If I don’t, it’s still great. I’ve been there before, so it’s not like it’s something I haven’t done. It’s a little different, I suppose, this time around.”

 

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[3] Garbiñe Muguruza

Garbine Muguruza | WTA Finals, Singapore 2017

Garbine Muguruza of Spain in action during the first round-robin group match at the 2017 WTA Finals tennis tournament

  • Slam Finals 3
  • Slam Titles 2

Maybe more eyes will be on the reigning Wimbledon champion, Garbiñe Muguruza. Hotly expected to lift titles in the warm-up events, she crashed out of Brisbane with cramps and while she battled through an injury in Sydney, she pulled out of her quarter-final.

“Is true, I would like to have played more matches. But you never really know how is going to start the year. I only played two matches, but I felt that my tennis was good. Maybe my fitness was a little bit, you know, [not] there.

“I don’t know. I think sometimes you don’t need that many matches. With my experience, sometimes you play very good, and you don’t need 25 tournaments before, sometimes you need it, so… So far, I am okay.”

Muguruza had struggled with the pressure of being a Slam champion and almost seemed relieved when it was finally all over – only to go and win Wimbledon a matter of weeks afterwards.

She had her best run last year, reaching the quarter-final, and certainly still ought to be considered as one of the favourites, but it remains to be seen if she can play herself into form.

 

[4] Elina Svitolina

Elina Svitolina (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Elina Svitolina (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

  • Slam Finals 0
  • Slam Titles 0

For a good few years now, Elina Svitolina has been earmarked with the potential to go far. Consistent play has kept her in the Top 20 for the last two years, and with some hefty titles to her name last year., it looked as though she would start to deliver soon. However the end of her year at the WTA Finals looked frustrating for her, but she looks to have picked up the pace, winning Brisbane, and then taking the time to not over-play.

“Definitely this was one of the things that we changed from one year probably. I was always playing before a tournament before the Grand Slam. I think it’s quite exhausting because you already with your mind there on the Grand Slam.

“Probably adds little bit more pressure. For me, you know, I’m that kind of player that likes to be 100%. I was pretty much, like, exhausted going into Grand Slams. This was decision we made.”

The expectations that Svitolina had coming into Singapore possibly made her exasperation not to play at her best all the more frustrating, and it is a delicate balance among the top seeds to try and manage their own expectations, never mind anyone elses.

“Each Grand Slam is always little bit different because it depends how you do in the tournaments before, how much confidence you have. I had a great, yeah, week in Brisbane. Of course, I’m confident.

“But I try to take one match — I will try to take one match at a time, be really focused on my game, and don’t have, like, crazy thoughts in my head.

“You’re not focused on your game plan, you’re not ready to compete. Yeah, just all over the place. It can happen. Just that moment where you have to just come back to the basics, just start building again.”

The Australian Open starts on 15 January.

 

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