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August 18, 2018

Simona Halep

Cincinnati, Ohio

S. HALEP/A. Sabalenka

6-3, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. It was a pretty impressive display today. Talk about your sort of game plan against Sabalenka.
SIMONA HALEP: Well, it's tough to fix a plan and to go there to make it, because she's a very powerful opponent. You have just to adjust yourself there on court.

She's hitting the ball very strong. The serve was huge. It was a really tough one.

But I stayed there. I stayed focused. I tried to stop missing and just to push her back. I tried to return, and I think I did it pretty well today. I feel happy that I could go through this one.

Q. What's it like playing someone with her sort of attitude on court? Because she was down match point, hit 116-mile-per-hour ace...
SIMONA HALEP: I remember. You think I would forget that?

Q. Just sayin'. How unique is she as a presence on court? Seems to have an incredible amount of spirit.
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, like I said, it's very powerful. Her attitude and also her game is very aggressive. You always feel, like, dominated.

But I felt strong on the legs, and I felt that I can manage the game. And also I can play good. I can play well when she hits that strong.

And then when I got a shorter ball, I tried to open the court better. I think I did everything well tonight. I feel like the game was really good.

Q. You fought very hard to get where you are as world No. 1, and you're kind of established now as a top player in the game, making back-to-back finals and on Premier Mandatory 5s. How important was it for you, when playing someone like Sabalenka who is on the come-up, who has this exciting, bold game, to keep her at bay a little bit longer?
SIMONA HALEP: Like I said yesterday, it was a big challenge for me to have an opponent that is so young and winning so good matches and tough matches before with confidence very high.

It was a big challenge. And today when I stepped on the court, I said that I have just to relax and to play my game, which I did. I did actually exactly how I felt on court I could do that. That's why maybe I was able to win. And also mentally I was strong.

Q. What was the best defensive shot you hit today?
SIMONA HALEP: Oh. I think there were many defensive shots. So it's tough to pick one (smiling).

If you can help me? I don't really...

Q. The forehand squash?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, yeah, the short one, the slice. Yeah, yeah, that was the best (smiling).

Q. Do you have some strategic thoughts about playing Kiki tomorrow?
SIMONA HALEP: In this moment, no (smiling). We played many times, as I remember. I know she hits flat. She hits, like, low, very low balls. She's serving well. So I will try just to keep the attention on myself and to do my game.

I will move well, I hope, and I will be strong on the legs. I think this is the main reason, every match, the main thing.

Q. I was looking at the history of both tournaments, Canada and here, and I think since 1973, no woman has won Canada and Cincinnati back to back.
SIMONA HALEP: Oh, that could be nice (smiling).

Q. But my question is...
SIMONA HALEP: Another big challenge tomorrow. Every day I face a big challenge.

Q. No pressure?
SIMONA HALEP: No pressure, no. Pressure is gone.

Q. Just talk about potentially pulling that off and how tricky it is, actually, because the conditions are different for both tournaments.
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, are different, but also in Canada was very humid. So here, as well. I felt actually the same. Rain delays, same.

I think the schedule was same. So I didn't feel like big change when I came here. Now I feel like, you know, if you play match by match and every day you have a match, you don't have time to think about anything else. So I just went with this rhythm, and I feel confident. I feel like my game is working well.

So is a chance tomorrow to win it, for sure, but is gonna be a tough run. So I'm not thinking about the result at all.

Q. You played twice yesterday. You have played quite a bit over the past two weeks. Was part of your game plan today just trying to get off the court quickly, or did you feel like you could go on forever?
SIMONA HALEP: No, I felt like I could go forever. I knew that physically and my shape of my body, the shape of my body is different and I can run a lot, so I can be a little bit stronger than her on that part, even if she's more powerful.

So the thought was not to finish fast. My thought was just to keep the rallies longer.

Q. When you called for Darren on 5-4 in the second set, what were some of the things that you were looking for from him at that moment?
SIMONA HALEP: Just to give me more positive things, like also confidence that I can break her right there. I felt that I need to talk to him in that moment, so I think helped me a lot.

Q. Tomorrow Novak Djokovic is going to try to win here for the first time, and if he does he will have won all the Grand Slams and all the Masters events. This is the only one he's missing.

Q. Is there one tournament you haven't won yet that you most want to win?
SIMONA HALEP: Well, I think I played two finals here. Tomorrow is the third one. Maybe it's gonna be with luck.

Rome, I would like to win. I like that tournament. It's in Europe. So I feel like home every time I go there. I pick Rome.

Q. Are you surprised by Kiki's sort of rise, especially this year?
SIMONA HALEP: Well, she did great in French Open last year or two years ago. So I'm not surprised that she's in the final. She has good game to be here. She's fighting all the time, all the matches, so she deserves to be there.

Q. As a player who maybe has her base and is more comfortable on clay, for you, Kiki is not dissimilar. She's kind of the same. She likes clay the most. When you started to become more comfortable on hard courts and realized that it was actually maybe a better surface for you or as good a surface for you as clay, what was it that made you believe that?
SIMONA HALEP: Well, since I started to grow up and to be better in the rankings in 2013, I won Sofia, I won New Haven, I won a few tournaments on hard courts, so I won on grass, so the fast surfaces, I think, fit me, and I feel like I can put my clay court game also on hard court now, in this moment. I feel strong on my legs, and I feel like I can roll the ball better.

Q. What do you remember about last year's final here?
SIMONA HALEP: Nothing. I have a blackout. I cannot remember.

Q. But you have had very few bad matches this year. Seems like you have been more consistent about having almost every match be pretty good. Just wondering how you have done that.
SIMONA HALEP: Well, definitely I have changed that because of the final last year here and the semifinal in Canada. But those matches were terrible for me.

And actually, after that one I said that I will not give up like that and I will not let the pressure to dominate me. So I changed that, and I feel that I can control those moments and those feelings better.

Q. You just feel more in control?

Q. Does that feel nice?
SIMONA HALEP: Uh-huh, nice.

Q. Darren took you to Waffle House this week?

Q. How was that?
SIMONA HALEP: Huge breakfast. I had a waffle. Actually split with him because I cannot eat one.

It was a good breakfast, and actually last year I have been there, if I remember, and I had also huge pancakes. It's nice to go there, but not every morning (smiling). It's tough then to come and play matches.

Q. What's your usual breakfast?
SIMONA HALEP: Sometimes ham and cheese sandwich. Sometimes eggs. Sometimes just bread with Nutella. Depends how I wake up.

Q. You have been No. 1 for a while and you won the Grand Slam. Do you think that kind of achievement makes your opponent intimidated a little bit and gives you some advantage mentally?
SIMONA HALEP: Whoa. I think we have to ask them. It's tough for me to answer that question. Actually, I can say I was, back a while ago, I was intimidated by Serena because she's so big, she's huge, but with other player, no, I haven't been.

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