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September 9, 2015
New York, NY, USA
S. HALEP/V. Azarenka
6-3, 4-6, 6-4
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Great match.
SIMONA HALEP: I know. (Smiling.)
Q. I guess I'm not the first one to tell you that.
SIMONA HALEP: Both of us, we played amazing, in my opinion.
Q. And obviously you come in here with a big smile on your face. Vika not so much. But, you know, somebody's got to win and somebody's got to lose. How happy are you to win that match?
SIMONA HALEP: I'm happy that I won this match. It was an amazing match. She played fantastic. But in the first set I played my best tennis, and I knew that I have, you know, I have the game to win the match. But I know also that she's very strong and she doesn't give up during the matches.
So after first set I did a step behind the baseline and wasn't good. She was dominating me in the second set, and I was running well but no power to hit from very far from the court.
And then I came back a little bit, 3-2, and I had a chance to do 3-All. But I lost my serve. So then everything was negative in my head. The rain delay was perfect for me. (Smiling.) It was unbelievable that I had another chance.
So I said in the gym with my coach, I spoke and I said that I have another chance. So I have to go just to do everything I did in first set and to get this one, because it's made for me.
Q. To reach your first semifinal here, how does that feel? Looking forward to that opportunity?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, I'm looking forward for the next match to enjoy the semifinals. It's first time when I play this.
I knew when I started the tournament that I have a good game. I feel great and I have good mentality coming in this Grand Slam. I had no expectations, no pressure. So that's why I'm playing so good.
It's a great feeling now that I can be in the semifinals, and of course tomorrow I want to fight to win it. But we will see. I expect a tough match.
Q. If you do win it tomorrow, then you have to look back at Cincinnati, and you told Serena at the end of that match that you'd be cheering for her to win the Grand Slam. What's going to happen then?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, I said I have one more match to get into the finals, first, and then to think about that.
But when I came here, someone asked me, You said this in Cincinnati. But I said, If I'm in the final, I want to win. (Smiling.) I want Serena winning if I'm not in the final.
Q. So you changed your mind?
SIMONA HALEP: No, no, I didn't change. Before the tournament I said this.
So if I will be in the final, of course I will fight for my chance, but first I have to play tomorrow.
Q. You played Flavia on hard court and you beat her on hard court --
SIMONA HALEP: This year.
Q. -- last time you met. What was that experience like, and what is it like playing her?
SIMONA HALEP: It's tough. I know her. She's very smart on court. She's fighting. I know that she never gives up.
During the match today I saw a little bit, because I was warming up, and I know that she has a great backhand. I have just to play smarter than usual. I have to be aggressive like I did today in the end of the match. I have to keep my serve and just go in there and be focused.
Q. What are the biggest differences in your styles, yours versus Flavia's?
SIMONA HALEP: The difference between us?
Q. Yeah, the way you play.
SIMONA HALEP: It's tough to answer this question, because maybe we have similar game because she has a strong backhand, I have the strong backhand. It's tough to answer, and I don't want to make mistakes about that.
It's just she's aggressive, as well, and I have to make her run like I do with all the players. But first I have to think about my game and what I have to do on court.
Q. You had a difficult summer. First round at Wimbledon, early loss in France, and then turned around on the hard court season. What made the difference?
SIMONA HALEP: I had a long break home after losing in Wimbledon. That one helped me a lot to relax myself. I had a lot of pressure. I put pressure on myself for when I played French Open, because in my mind was that I have to repeat the result from last year. So it was a bad thing.
And then I relax myself, and I started to be aggressive again, to go without expectations at every tournament. Everything went in the right way in my game.
Q. Can you talk about having Nadia Comaneci in your player's box and knowing her and what inspiration you might take from her?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, she's a great champion. I mean, she had perfect 10, first 10. You know, to have a great champion in your box, it gives you power, that she appreciates what I'm doing. She was supporting me. I heard her sometimes when she said, Hi, Simona. So it was great, and I really want to thank her for coming. She told me that she's coming tomorrow again. So it's good.
Q. What did Darren tell you during the rain delay?
SIMONA HALEP: No, I'm not telling you. (Smiling.) I cannot say this.
Q. Fair enough. Second question: Vika said that she was surprised by the pace of your ball, that she didn't think that you hit the ball as hard as you do, that you caught her a few times. I'm curious, because you hadn't played her for three years, did anything surprise you in her game?
SIMONA HALEP: If I remember well in that match, she was hitting strong, like she does now. She has the same game. At that moment she won her Grand Slam, I think. Now she's coming back. I think she was playing amazing today. I think she found her way back.
She's, you know, more motivated, more focused for what she has to do. Today was really good match for her, and, you know, I think she's stronger now. I am stronger, as well, since we played last time. I'm much stronger, and actually, mental, my mind is stronger than three years ago.
Q. Flavia was asked, before we knew the outcome of your match, she was asked to assess both you and Vika and she kind of laughed and said, Look, I'm not going to tell you. It's strategy how she's going to take you on. One thing she did say, because she was pressed on the topic, she talked about Azarenka's power, she said she thought you actually had more power than Vika, and that a lot of people may not realize just how powerful a player you are. Talk about that part of your game and also, duly noted, that your next opponent is well aware of your power.
SIMONA HALEP: I think I have inside power more than during the game. I'm not very strong. Unless you see, I don't have big muscles. I'm not tall. I have power inside. I fight. Always it's like big challenge for me. Every point is a big challenge. So I do everything I can. I run for every ball, and that one makes me stronger, I think, in this moment.
Q. How does it make you feel to have that sort of inner strength?
SIMONA HALEP: To have...
Q. That strength that you just spoke about, the power inside. How does it make you feel to have it?
SIMONA HALEP: It's natural. It's natural. It's coming from inside. I don't work like this. Maybe my parents gave me this. Yeah, so I have it like natural.
Q. But what does that do for your confidence?
SIMONA HALEP: It's like I feel strong when I go on court. I feel that, actually, when I started this tournament after coming with -- I had two big results, and I thought that I have enough power to win matches here. I thought that I have my chance during this tournament, and I couldn't accept to lose.
Like I did with Lisicki. It was an amazing match, as well. And second set where we were very close at 5-All, I said, I cannot lose.
So I was fighting, and this power came. You know, I just tried to stay calm and to think that I can win every ball.
Q. Based on your supernatural strength...
SIMONA HALEP: It's not supernatural. It's something normal.
Q. If you had your favorite surface, based on your strength, what would it be and why? Naturally, you know, hard court you're mostly baseline.
SIMONA HALEP: Last year I said clay is my favorite because I had the biggest result there. This year I say hard court is my favorite.
Actually, I want to play on every surface good tennis. I know I'm able to do that. I have just to work on some things at my game and just believing in myself. Because I know if I believe, I can do many things.
Q. How much do you feel like those runs at the French Open and Wimbledon last year are helping you now? And why do you think it's taken a full year for you to shuck away that pressure and feel like you're just focused on what you need to do?
SIMONA HALEP: After Wimbledon I said that the year is finished for me. I cannot win a match.
So I took the pressure off of myself. I was going home, relaxing. I didn't touch racquet for almost four weeks.
So it was just -- I wanted just to forget about tennis, about official matches. I just wanted to come back with the pleasure on court and taking just, you know, the fun.
Because that's why I played mixed here, to have fun and to refine the pleasure during the official matches. And after I lost in Wimbledon, I said that that's the worst thing. Cannot be like worse than losing in first round in a Grand Slam. I went there with expectations in my mind. So that's why I change my mind now, and I feel much relaxed.
Q. Is it fun to be in the semifinals of the US Open?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, a lot of fun. (Smiling.) Really happy. And I just want to enjoy tomorrow. No pressure, no expectations.
Q. How much between now and when you play about 24 hours from now will the thought enter your mind at all about the other semifinal possibility of, if you win, perhaps playing Serena Williams in the match that would have a lot of significance personally for you but also for her and what she's trying to accomplish?
SIMONA HALEP: If I will play the final here against Serena, again, would be like a record to play two times against her in one month. I have nothing to lose. Even tomorrow it's like big challenge and will be a big bonus for me to get into the finals here.
I didn't expect this when I came here, but I knew that I have a chance. So I was working hard every day, and I was believing in myself that I can do it.
We will see tomorrow. It will be a tough match. I just want to be focused for that, and then we will see what is happening.
Q. You hit a serve today at 112 miles an hour.
SIMONA HALEP: Wow.
Q. Yeah, wow.
SIMONA HALEP: Was it an ace?
Q. Yeah, it was.
SIMONA HALEP: Okay. I had only one, no?
Q. You had a few.
SIMONA HALEP: Okay.
Q. But can you talk a little bit about your serve? Because it's getting bigger and it seems like you're going for it a little bit more.
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah. It's getting bigger, and I'm working a lot on my serve. I changed some things on it. I'm much happier now that I can feel it, and in important moments it's helping me. Like today at 2-1 I hit an ace. So it was a great moment.
I feel the serve now. I feel stronger when I serve, so I'm not afraid anymore to serve. But actually, I feel the return better. It's there.
Q. European players always talk about the French Open, Wimbledon, watching them growing up. How much did you watch of the US Open when you were little? Do you have memories of this tournament?
SIMONA HALEP: I didn't watch tennis too much when I was younger. Actually, this week I was watching a lot at the TV every day.
I didn't like to watch tennis since last year, I can say. Yeah, last year I started just to watch some players just to learn many things from them.
I'm more relaxed, to be honest, and I enjoy a lot this period of my life, of my career. So I have to get just the fun and the pleasure of everything.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports