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January 4, 2016

Simona Halep

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How was your pre-season? Have you done anything differently? You have a new coach this year.
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, I have a new coach, and he came in Romania for a few weeks. It was great. I had a good time. We practice very hard.

I was working on what we had in our mind to improve in my game, so everything went well.

I was, you know, feeling great that I had new things to work on. He came very relaxed and showed me what I have to do, what I have to improve. I accepted and I worked really hard on them.

Q. What kind of areas of your game have you concentrated on?
SIMONA HALEP: On everything. I want to be stronger. I want to improve of course my serve because it's not very strong, but now I feel that it's better.

So everything I did and every shot I think it's important in my game. Also, the physical training is important because I have to move fast, be strong on my legs.

So I think it went well. Now I'm stronger and better than before.

Q. You were working with Darren before. Just wondering how different it is now that he's not the adidas coach and just Simona Halep's coach?
SIMONA HALEP: It's the same. Yeah, now he's mine, only mine. No more players around. It's good. It's good feeling. For me was the same, and I think for him is the same as well. It's good to have him close to me and to learn things from him.

Q. Was it difficult before when he wasn't able to help you against other adidas players?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah. I can say that was a little bit difficult also in US Open because he couldn't show up for Pennetta's match.

I knew that and accepted before, so it was okay. Now it's different, so it's good.

Q. Did you have to just twist his arm? Was he hard to persuade to coach you only?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, it was difficult, but I knew from the beginning, so wasn't so difficult that he couldn't come always to my matches when I played against adidas player.

So it was fine. I learned many things from that collaboration, and now because he's only with me, it's much better and I'm more relaxed.

Q. Serena has withdrawn from her opening match in the Hopman Cup. She hasn't played since sort of the of October. Is there a feeling sort of amongst you chasing her that there maybe a chink in her armor?
SIMONA HALEP: I didn't know that she withdraw. You know, she's strong. I know that she can come and play a good tennis always. She's prepared for that. She has a lot of experience behind and she knows how to manage all the situations.

Yeah, I feel that it's a good timing to play against her. Still, I feel that she's the best player in the world. I have just to be relax when I play against her. I believe also that many players from top 10 can beat her.

Many players are playing really good tennis in this moment. Muguruza as well. I think I can say that Bouchard will come back because she has the game. She knows how to play in top. She was there.

So will be interesting year, I think.

Q. The Australian Open the last two years has probably been your most consistent slam. What is it about the Plexicushion surface that suits your game?
SIMONA HALEP: In Melbourne I played good also in juniors. I did semifinals. So I like the court. They are different a little bit. They are faster now. So it's much better for me now because I have a fast game. I like to be close to the ball. I like to run on court.

So I think it's good court for me. I feel good in Australia. Now I'm part of Aussie, no, because I have an Australian coach. I feel good here. You know, sometimes it's too hot, but that's why I came, to get used to the hot, to the weather.

You know, I'm looking forward to start this new year and to see how good I can be.

Q. You're wearing a hoodie now so not too cold.
SIMONA HALEP: No. Here it's a lot of air conditioning inside, so that's why I'm wearing this jacket.

Q. How confident are you that this will be the breakthrough year for you in a Grand Slam?
SIMONA HALEP: I'm pretty confident. It's my goal. I believe that I have chances, but I have to work hard. I have to be concentrated for what I have to do, to be relaxed, because if I'm relaxed I know I can play better tennis.

I have strong coach close to me, so, yeah, we have to enjoy just. We have to do our best always and to see if we can do it. I feel that I can, but still, I have to stay relaxed and to enjoy.

Q. How tough would it be to have the first match of the year be against Azarenka?
SIMONA HALEP: Very tough. Yeah, I'm looking forward to start this year. I'm excited. I know that that's not easy, because every time the first match of the year is difficult mentally as well and physically as well because I didn't play since Singapore. So I have two months already.

Will be I think nice match. Will be very hard. Will be like a big challenge for me. Again, I played against her in US Open, so I'm looking forward to play against her and to see how good I can play in that match, first match of the year.

Q. Regarding the Grand Slams this year, is French Open still your top priority, or you have the Australian Open in your mind right now?
SIMONA HALEP: Doesn't matter which one will be, I just want to play good in Grand Slams. I said that French Open is my favorite because I won in juniors. That's why I feel different there.

But everywhere I played okay. I played good tennis. So I'm trying just to stay concentrated for what I have to play and to see if I can do a good result at one of those. Or all of them.

Q. Speaking of that US Open match against Vika, what do you remember from that match? If I recall, your celebration after the match was more than normal matches. What did that match kind of mean to you?
SIMONA HALEP: I remember that the rain help me. I cannot forget that. Yeah, it was a good point that the rain came and we stop the match, because I was too nervous I think in the third set and I couldn't manage the emotions.

Then I just said that I have to play aggressive, more aggressive, to hit the ball, and not thinking about the score anymore. So I did well. I feel that it was a tough match. She's very strong. She's hitting the ball strong. She doesn't give up.

You know, I have good experience against her. She beat me in the past and now I beat her, so it's good timing again to play against her. I need strong matches, strong opponents to be ready for the Grand Slams.

Q. Has Darren taught you any Australian habits or words that you didn't know?
SIMONA HALEP: Hello, mate. (Laughter.) And brekky from breakfast. I had no idea what does it mean.

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