Paris: Simona Halep is on course for a maiden Grand Slam title, fuelled by a love of her native Romania, radical breast surgery and a fondness for Harry Potter.
Simona Halep Pic/Getty Images
The 22-year-old made the fourth round of the French Open on Saturday for the first time with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Spain's Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor. She had already made the last 16 at the US Open in 2013 and followed that up with a first quarter-final appearance at a major in Australia this year.
She is undoubtedly a player in a rich vein of form. But her early years as a professional were not so promising as she struggled to translate the form that brought her the 2008 world junior number one spot and the Roland Garros girls title in the same year to the senior ranks.
Halep's first major change came on an operating table when she was 18 and opted for breast reduction surgery to take her from 34DD to a 34C to aid her movement around the court.
Since then, she has rarely looked back and insists she is not surprised either by her form over the last 18 months or her smooth progress in Paris where she has lost just 11 games in three rounds.
Voted the WTA's Most Improved Player in 2013, Halep has also had to get used to dealing with the international media and is turning to the Harry Potter novels to help her brush up on her English skills.
"I want to improve more. I speak better than last year, but I still have to learn. Now I speak more with my coach in English, and it's good. Now I started to read a book in English — Harry Potter," she said.
Halep is also fiercely proud of her Romanian roots — she still lives in Constanta and is managed by compatriot Virginia Ruzici, the 1978 French Open champion.Former Romania players Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac are regular supporters in Paris. "Yes, Virginia won here in Paris a lot of years ago," she joked.