In triumphing this week, Halep bookended her WTA shutdown with a pair of titles, having won Dubai in late February. The world No. 2 spoke with TENNIS.com after her victory?over Mertens, where she reflected on her week of work, how she used?the extended break to address?a right foot injury and subsequent payoff in Prague,?and what was going through her mind during the?new-look trophy presentation.
You won five singles matches in six days. When you put everything into perspective, the time off, the lack of match fitness, not having your full team with you, how surreal is it to end up as the Prague champion?
It’s a big joy and pleasure that I could win the title after such a long period. We had hard times, and still have. Restrictions are tough, because they are very strict. But we felt very safe here and that’s why I was able to compete at my highest level and desire. I felt great this week here, and the fact that I was able to win this title with very good opponents means that I did a great job in the break. And also, that I’m still motivated to win matches and titles.
Throughout your career, you’ve won titles in many different places, with many different circumstances. How does your first visit to Prague compare to your other successes?
This is a definitely a smaller tournament than the previous ones. But it meant more because we are coming after a six-month break, and I didn’t know what to expect. We had tough opponents, so it was not easy, even in the first round. I’m glad that I’m back on court. This is the most important thing for everybody and it’s good to have tennis back.
Normally, a tournament win would entail a nice dinner out, maybe a glass of champagne. How are you going to celebrate this one… maybe a toast over FaceTime?
I have to be in the room for tonight, until I leave Prague. I got bored, I have to admit. Ten days in the room was not easy. But, it was safe and good for everybody, because we can see that nobody has anything. So everybody is healthy. Probably on video, WhatsApp chat or something like that, I will celebrate with my family.
The break had a silver lining in that it allowed you to take as much time as you needed to heal your right foot without having to worry about missing tournaments. If you look back on this, what does it do for you moving forward, being able to address that and proving you are mentally ready to play—whenever and wherever—you decide to continue competing?
Mentally, it’s really important to feel healthy and have the feeling that you are 100 percent healthy when you go on court. It’s the most important thing, because if you have a little injury, then you are not comfortable and cannot give your best. And you are always thinking about the injury, so it’s not easy to perform. It was good in a way, that I had so much time to do the recovery of the foot. It was a tough injury. But I was not happy that it was like a six-month break (smiling). We have to adjust ourselves to what we have, for everybody it’s a tough time. So I’m OK and I just want to enjoy the victory.
You knew going in there are protocols in place for safety. But talk to me about talking part in a trophy ceremony with these in place. The mask came off for your speech, and then went right back on for?pictures. What did that feel like? For us at home, we could still tell you were smiling even with your mouth covered.
I was unhappy that the people couldn’t see my smile, because I was smiling all the way! But we have to respect the rules and I’m happy to see that all the people are respecting it. We have to be safe first, with everything. We can smile under the masks, so it’s all good. If we feel like smiling, it’s enough.