There’s been a lot of talk about how so much has changed in the last two and a half years since the last BNP Paribas Open, but Simona Halep has seen a lot of changes in just the last two and a half weeks.
Halep got married to her boyfriend Toni Iuruc on Sept. 15. She parted ways with her long-time coach Darren Cahill on Sept. 21. And she turned 30 on Sept. 27.
That’s a whole lot of new for Halep, who made her 2021 BNP Paribas Open debut on Friday with a win over Marta Kotsyuk 7-6, 6-1.
“It’s not easy, so many things are happening in my life, have happened actually,” Halep said. “Now, though, I feel like more relaxed. Everything is set. I know what I have to do. I know how things are set.”
Did the stress that surrounds a wedding distract her at all?
More: How has the tennis world changed in the two and a half years since the last BNP Paribas Open?
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“No because my husband took care of the wedding, so I didn’t move one finger for it,” she said. “I just said that I want white flowers and he knew what I like, and I didn’t have to do anything, so thanks to him. I didn’t have to stress myself for the party. The party, the wedding was great. We had a lot of fun. We danced a lot. I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed it maximum.
“After two days, I went to the gym,” she added. “I was back very fast to do training after the wedding.”
On Friday, Halep had a bit of a slow start, which wasn’t a surprise to her since she hadn’t played since making the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open.
She used her championship mettle to pull out a tiebreaker in the opener and then took over in the second set.
“It was a little bit tougher because I didn’t play for a long time before coming here, so I was a little bit nervous, and she played good tennis,” said Halep who was the 2015 champion in the desert. “The second set I felt much more confident.”
Halep said her separation from coach Cahill was mutual, and that she will always have love for him. No hard feelings at all, just felt like the right time. This week, she has two coaches in her corner, both from Romania.
“It was not easy. We’ve been together six years, six great years, but it’s nice to end a relationship in this way,” Halep said of the amicable split with Cahill.
Next up for Halep is, potentially, a match that tennis fans began to drool over the second the draw was released. Halep could next play U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu if Raducanu wins her first-round match late Friday night.
The 18-year-old Raducanu considers Halep one of her tennis idols. Raducanu’s father is Romanian just like Halep.
Halep said if that matchup does materialize, she would install Raducanu as the favorite.
“It’s amazing what she’s done, and I’m really happy for her,” Halep said. “She’s so young. Extraordinary what she has achieved already. Of course, it’s going to be a big challenge, because she has a lot of confidence. She’s kind of the favorite for the next match if we play. I stayed so much this year with injuries. I’m just trying to come back as good as possible.”
That match if it comes to fruition would take place Sunday.
Shad Powers is a sports columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.