Favourite tag in Paris ‘positive pressure’ for top seed Simona Halep, Newsline

PARIS – Romanian Simona Halep has been heavily favoured to lift a second French Open title but rather than feeling burdened by the weight of expectation, the women’s top seed considers it as “positive pressure”.

World number two Halep is seeded number one in Paris in the absence of top-ranked Australian Ash Barty, who won her maiden Grand Slam in Paris last year.

U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka has also not travelled to France due to an injury she picked up in New York and former players and bookies have put their bet on Halep to win her third career Grand Slam.

“No, it’s not extra pressure. I’m used to this kind of pressure because I’ve been No. 1 seeded in the past,” Halep told reporters on Friday, adding that she was honoured to be considered favourite.

“I’ve been in this position. So, no, I take it in a right way, and I take it as a normal tournament. So no extra pressure for me, it’s just a positive pressure that I have.”

Halep lost two finals at Roland Garros before finally winning her maiden Grand Slam trophy in 2018. She went on to win her second at Wimbledon last year.

She had a brilliant buildup to this year’s French Open after picking up titles in Prague and Rome and arrived in Paris on a 14-match unbeaten streak, dating back to her triumph in Dubai before the professional circuit closed in March.

“I feel good. I feel confident. But you never know,” she said. “So I will try to give my best actually every day to get ready for the tournament.

“French Open is very special because (it) was the first Grand Slam. It will stay forever like this.”

The French Open is played during May-June every year but the organisers shifted this year’s tournament to end September due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has meant that the weather is much cooler for this year’s claycourt Grand Slam.

“When it’s cold, it’s a little bit heavier and a little bit different,” Halep added. “I feel the cold. I feel like struggling a little bit. But for everybody it’s the same.”