By Martyn Herman
EASTBOURNE, England (Reuters) – Romania’s Simona Halep said her bitter French Open final defeat by Jelena Ostapenko was still “killing her” as she looked forward to making amends at next week’s Wimbledon.
“I still have, before going to sleep, some thoughts about that final,” Halep, who will face Ying-Ying Duan of China at the Aegon International in Eastbourne on Tuesday in her first match since the Roland Garros final, told reporters.
Asked which thoughts, the world number two from Constanta said: “The only one, very tough thought is one set, 3-0 up, that I couldn’t take that game.
“Now I’m thinking that I should have hit that ball, the return, the second serve, just go for it. But I didn’t. So that one is killing me, actually.”
Halep seemed poised to win her first grand slam title and become world number one when she led Latvian Ostapenko earlier this month, only to be buried under an avalanche of winners by the 20-year-old who claimed a shock 4-6 6-4 6-3 triumph.
Many tears were shed after that defeat, her second in a French Open final after she was runner-up in 2014, but Halep said some time on the beach in Greece had helped her recover.
“I had a few days home chilling, and then I have been on holiday four days. I came back and started to play tennis. I missed tennis,” she said.
Halep certainly appeared to be in good spirits beside the English seaside on a warm sunny day and is already focusing on achieving the top ranking that just eluded her but which she could still claim before Wimbledon.
If the Romanian wins the Eastbourne title, or goes two rounds further than Germany’s current world number one Angelique Kerber, that would seal the deal for Halep.
“Now that I’m so close, it’s like it’s coming more into my mind and into my soul,” Eastbourne wildcard Halep said. “I really want to get there.
“But I’m close but still far. So I have just to take (it) match-by-match and do everything I can to be number one. It’s going to be a big thing for me.”
Asked if she would cope with the pressure better than Kerber, who is suffering a lean year, Halep had no doubt.
“I want to face that challenge,” she said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)