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January 15, 2019
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
S. HALEP/K. Kanepi
6-7, 6-4, 6-2
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How satisfying was that for you?
SIMONA HALEP: It was a great match. I think both of us played really well for first round. It was a tough draw, but I'm really happy with the victory. For sure, it's really important for me coming not very confident into this tournament.
Since Cincinnati, I didn't win a match. It's a nice start, a nice day for me.
Q. What is the challenge of playing someone like Kanepi?
SIMONA HALEP: Big challenge. First round of Grand Slam is not easy. Losing against her in US Open, so it was a bit of pressure on my shoulders.
But I said I have nothing to lose. I know that she's hitting the ball very strong, is going to take time to get the leading in the match. I didn't give up, which was really important tonight. I think that's why I could win the match.
Q. You say you have nothing to lose because you lost to her last time. You're No. 1, but haven't won a match since Cincinnati. How do these things in your mind contribute to your current mindset?
SIMONA HALEP: Well, if I'm thinking of all these things, I cannot play tennis any more (smiling). So I didn't think about anything. I just took the risk coming late here, staying home more, because I wanted. I felt like I need.
I said that no expectations coming here. Just giving my best to find the rhythm, which tonight was a great level of tennis. I feel like I am one step forward.
Q. Down a set and a break, I think you were quite vocal today and frustrated a little bit.
SIMONA HALEP: I was (smiling).
Q. What were you telling yourself to not give up? There were many reasons why it would make sense for you to maybe feel like today was not your day.
SIMONA HALEP: Well, maybe I felt a little bit bad because I was late coming here. I said one thing you have to do, not giving up. So maybe that's why I stayed there for every ball.
Actually I think it's the best match I played in the last period, not giving up for one ball. I think I improved in that direction.
I'm just happy that I could win, nothing else. Doesn't matter anything because I'm not at the highest level of my tennis. I'm just trying to feel good on court and to improve day by day.
Q. How does Australia feel without Darren?
SIMONA HALEP: Weird and tough (smiling).
But he's around. He gave me some advice. He came on court with me for some practices. I really thank him for being so close. We are great friends. Even if we are not coach-player, we are friends.
Q. What is it like to fight your way through this draw? You're only one match in, but to focus on those wins, while also essentially defending that No. 1 ranking? There are 10 women who stand to take that ranking if you don't make it into the final rounds here.
SIMONA HALEP: (Smiling).
Q. Does that add pressure?
SIMONA HALEP: It's not in my mind. I finished three years No. 1, so the ranking doesn't matter any more. I play tennis because I like it. Now my challenge is to win every match I play.
I know it's probably impossible, but I'm trying just to stay with this thought, and giving my best. Ranking is not in my mind right now.
Q. When you finished the match, you seemed relieved and happy you had won. Was there a doubt in the second set that you wouldn't win?
SIMONA HALEP: Well, it's tough with an opponent like Kaia to think you win a match before you do it. So I didn't think about that. I just had confidence that I have a chance, and I have to fight for it.
I was happy because it was really important to win this match. Tough first round, losing so many matches before coming here. So was not easy. That's why I was happy, because of this victory. It was important.
Q. For so many years you've been very consistent. The fact that you allowed yourself to come here late, do you see the benefits in doing that? Was it difficult for you?
SIMONA HALEP: Many benefits because I spend a lot of time home. I enjoyed a lot. I needed. I was exhausted after a long year last year.
I don't regret. Doesn't matter what I'm going to do here, the year is long, so I'm trying just to be better day by day and we will see what is going to happen.
But no regrets that I came late.
Q. What were you doing at home?
SIMONA HALEP: Spending time with my close people, with my family, going out a little bit. Normal life. I had a normal life for two months, which is great.
Q. How did it come to be Darren was back on court? Looking ahead, what does your tennis look like without him? Does it feel like there's a hole you have to fill or if you're totally ready to go it without him?
SIMONA HALEP: I still felt that he's my coach when he came on court. I didn't feel any difference. He was very open, gave me advice.
It's great to have him around. Also it's tough that he's not in my team any more. I don't know what I'm going to do. For sure, I need a coach, because at this level you cannot do it alone.
I'm just chilling for the moment, and we will see after this tournament.
Q. How do you chill while playing a Grand Slam?
SIMONA HALEP: Well, no expectations because I'm not at the highest level. But I'm motivated. So is just kind of taking a little bit out the pressure.
Q. Is it difficult for you to accept that you're coming into a Grand Slam maybe undercooked, not with as much practice? Any player tries to fight through the fatigue or injuries to be ready. It seems like somehow you might be at peace with where you're at.
SIMONA HALEP: Well, I had an injury which was difficult to treat it. With the back, is always tough. You never know what to expect. That was the most important thing before coming here, that I didn't feel pain for the month I did off-season home.
I don't know what to say. After these results that I've done, I see different the things. So I'm trying just to enjoy more and to be happy on court. So nothing else. The results don't matter any more. I just want to improve in myself and also in my game.
Everything I do I do for this.
Q. We know you as a very hard worker. Are you good at giving yourself breaks? Coming here late is not normal for you.
SIMONA HALEP: It's not normal because the previous years I came earlier and I played maybe 10 matches before Melbourne. But this year was different. Everything was different. I work hard home. I don't want to say that I did nothing. For the last four weeks in December, I work hard. I was very professional.
But also it was good to spend the time home. The balance was good. I'm not very far with my level. I feel good on court. I need just some matches.
Q. You said because of Darren you've become a supporter of the Port Adelaide football club.
SIMONA HALEP: Yes.
Q. Do you like the game of AFL?
SIMONA HALEP: I don't understand anything. I'm watching. I was watching actually. We were watching in the lobby with Darren, all the team, supporting the guys. I've been in Adelaide. I've been there at the club. I met the team. Also the club, it was really nice, good facilities for them. Very professional.
I really was enjoying the time there. I supporting them with all my heart.
Q. That match at the US Open, did you learn anything from it?
SIMONA HALEP: I don't want to talk about it (laughter).
Q. Was today a completely new experience?
SIMONA HALEP: Gone.
Q. As if it never happened?
SIMONA HALEP: Never happened. That tournament didn't exist (laughter).
Q. Tactically, how do you adjust when you're playing someone when it seems like she's dictating point after point?
SIMONA HALEP: Getting the ball back. At one point I didn't know what to do any more because the ball was coming so strong. I just thought that I have to be strong on the legs, to be there closer to the line. If I was going back, I did not have a chance to return the balls.
Then I stepped into the court few times and I was more aggressive, which was really important. The serve helped me today. So I think in big picture was a good game.
Q. Talking about the big picture, do you feel having achieved the No. 1 and having won a slam, you have an extra level of comfort or maturity?
SIMONA HALEP: Comfort, for sure. Maturity, I don't know that (smiling). We're going to see in the future what is going to happen with me this year.
But comfort, for sure. I'm not putting pressure on myself any more with the results. But I'm still motivated. What it comes now, it's a bonus. I still the things in that direction. I feel better.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports