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January 21, 2019
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
S. WILLIAMS/S. Halep
6-1, 4-6, 6-4
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Very, very exciting game. First set, tell us a little bit what was in your mind that set? It went really fast. How did you manage to put yourself together to show such an extraordinary second set?
SIMONA HALEP: I will start with a joke (smiling). I felt like I had been hit by the train in the first set. (Laughter.) Everything was too fast.
I didn't get scared about the first set, because I knew I have a better level, and I can play better if I stay there and I really start moving better and hitting the ball stronger.
So after the first set, I got fire inside myself, and I said that now I start the match. So it was much better.
Game by game, I felt that my level is growing, and I had more confidence to go through it.
Q. The three break points in the third set, do you think you could have done anything different on those?
SIMONA HALEP: Not really. She served really well those points.
I tried to be aggressive that game. I have been aggressive. So I think I improved many things in this direction, but I was unlucky a little bit, let's say, in that moment (smiling).
But it was a good match, so I cannot complain.
Q. Serena has always been a great returner, but tonight she just looked like crazy good returner. You were winning the rallies once they went to five or six shots. She'd come back and she'd have that service return. How do you get around something like that?
SIMONA HALEP: It's not easy. It's frustrating a little bit during the match, but as we all know, I'm not a big server, so I have to go with that.
Maybe I could change a little bit the direction of the serve to mix a little bit more, but I didn't. So, yeah, she's a great returner, and it's always tough to see her so close to the baseline and feel the pressure a little bit.
It was not the worst match when I serve, how I served, so I served okay, but was not the best.
So I think if I can improve in that direction more, I have a better chance.
Q. You're ranked No. 1 and she is Serena Williams.
SIMONA HALEP: Exactly.
Q. When you stepped on the court, did you feel like the favored player?
SIMONA HALEP: No, I never feel that I'm favorite. Every match is difficult, and every match starts at 0-0. So I have nothing in my mind about that. I just went on court confident that I had my chance, and I tried to be positive. I have this position now, I'm in this position, so I have to be confident.
Q. Every time you play Serena, people ask you, Are you intimidated by her? Yet you have played many great matches like today. I guess, after a match like today, do you think it's silly that people still question that?
SIMONA HALEP: People can ask anything, and I can answer what I feel. So I'm not intimidated anymore. As I said, I have a huge respect for her, but doesn't mean anything. I fought hard today, and I was very close.
Q. We saw a new face tonight in your box and also this afternoon on the court. What's the story behind that?
SIMONA HALEP: What face?
Q. Thierry Van Cleemput.
SIMONA HALEP: We are talking but is not my coach officially, so we will see.
Q. He did the warmup with you, and can you just elaborate a little bit how that came about? For us it's a big surprise. He was still with David Goffin on Saturday and yet on Monday night he's with you.
SIMONA HALEP: We are talking. I have nothing to do with their split. I like him as a coach. I like him as a person. So is not my official coach.
We didn't decide yet anything. We just have to know each other better. We are talking just.
Q. Just based off of this tournament and given everything that was going on before the tournament and preparation, coach, all these sorts of things, what do you take out of your four matches here?
SIMONA HALEP: Close to 10. I have the courage to say that, because I took the risk to stay home so much, and I haven't been prepared for the highest level in tennis, but I did not play bad, so I'm happy about the way that it's been going this tournament, and I take only the positives. I had great matches. I had the toughest draw, but it was nice.
Q. As the match started, they were showing you in the hallway waiting for a while and standing around waiting. I'm curious, at this tournament there are a lot of cameras everywhere in the hallways.
SIMONA HALEP: You guys are filming everything. I saw everything. I saw when I hugged my mom. Everything, you can see.
Q. Are you surprised by that? It's different here from other tournaments.
SIMONA HALEP: I didn't notice that there is a camera. So now I have to make sure (smiling).
But it's nice. I think people can see our reactions, like off-court moments. So it's nothing bad.
Q. You and your mom together is nice.
SIMONA HALEP: It's okay. Doesn't bother me.
Q. When did you decide Thierry can be in your warmups and box? When did that happen?
SIMONA HALEP: He was not in my box. You have to watch better.
Q. He was a row behind, to be exact.
SIMONA HALEP: That's true.
Q. How did it come about?
SIMONA HALEP: We talked here, so it was nothing before. We talked here. I saw...
Q. On Sunday?
SIMONA HALEP: After the split.
Q. You went to him?
SIMONA HALEP: You are too curious (smiling).
Q. Serena, how would you gauge her form right now compared to how she was before she left the tour to have a child?
SIMONA HALEP: Well, I feel like she plays really great against me always. Some balls she's defending really well, and she hits very strong. Always she plays well, because it's Serena Williams.
But I feel like she gets motivated and always -- she makes me motivated, as well. I try to play my best every time I play against her, but she played really well, and I felt her very strong on court.
Q. The last time you had played was the US Open, 2016. Obviously it's been a while. How much did you see that you had improved against her tonight compared to that 2016 match?
SIMONA HALEP: Losing every time is not improving, but I felt like I was closer. I played better. I stayed in the rallies better. I won the long rallies. I felt like I had more power playing against her. I moved well.
So I cannot feel exactly what I improved, but I feel like being close to her, it's a good level.
Q. I will be curious one more time if you allow me.
SIMONA HALEP: Please.
Q. Have you been in touch with Thierry during the winter breaks or preparation?
SIMONA HALEP: No.
Q. At any time?
SIMONA HALEP: No.
Q. It is possible that after this tournament you could still be No. 1 and it's possible you might not be No. 1 after this tournament. If it is the end, how will you look back, on this stretch, how will you look back on this long time you have held No. 1?
SIMONA HALEP: Well, there is another chance after this tournament to go back to No. 1 if I lose it. So the main goal is just to play as good as I can every match, to win every match I play, so the ranking doesn't really matter. And this stage for me I have to work hard to get the level back, to feel ready 100% every match. So I will work for that.
End of the year is more important, the ranking, so I will not stress myself about this. I just go home, I will rest, and I will watch tennis. I am also curious who is going to win.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports