Quick learner Halep ready for Slam crown number two

Melbourne: World number one Simona Halep Saturday admitted losing the 2018 Australian Open final was a painful moment, but it taught her how to better handle pressure situations which she has since put to good use. The Romanian was targeting a first-ever Grand Slam title in that match against Caroline Wozniacki and looked on track to win before folding in the third set.

Halep had won her service game and then broke the Dane to get a 4-3 lead. She served for what would have been a 5-3 advantage but Wozniacki broke then held serve for lead 5-4. The fired-up Dane went on to break again and win 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-4, leaving Halep crushed.

“I didn’t want to think that much about that match because it was really painful to lose it,” she said at Melbourne Park when asked to reflect on what went wrong. “But I learned some things from that match. That break (at 4-3) broke me a little bit in that moment. Now I know how to manage better if that happens again. She was better at that moment and maybe fresher than me because I played so many long matches before. She was actually less tired than me and deserved to win. She was stronger,” she added.

A gutsy Halep took what she learned into the next major of the year, the French Open, and made no similar mistakes, romping through the third set of the final 6-1 against Sloane Stephens to finally clinch her maiden Slam title.

“It made a big difference (because) I can say inside myself I did what I wanted to do. I won a Grand Slam finally,” said the 27-year-old. “Now I can say I’m a real number one Before I said without a Grand Slam, you are not a real number one. I’m happy. I’m enjoying the time. Everything I’ve done last year made me be more relaxed,” she added.

Kyrgios on fire

Australian Open home hope Nick Kyrgios declared Saturday that he could break into the world’s top 10 if he can get right physically and mentally. But first the world number 51 will need to get past the unbelievably tough Canadian 16th seed Milos Raonic in a blockbuster first-round encounter when the year’s opening Grand Slam begins on Monday.

Kyrgios rose to a career-high 13th in 2016 but has steadily slipped down the pecking order since. He cut short last season in October after an elbow injury, admitted he was working on mental health issues and then suffered a spider bite over Christmas. But he was in an upbeat mood as he spoke to reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday ahead of squaring off against the former world number three.

“If I get right physically and mentally… realistically I could be top 10. That’s a fact,” said Kyrgios. “Right now I’m not even thinking about that. I want to just enjoy my time in Australia, the Aussie summer. I want to play good tennis and be happy. That’s the main thing.”