The Romanian hopes her hard work sends a message to young girls in her country.
Simona Halep hopes that her maiden major title will serve as an inspirational moment for the youth of Romania. Backed by full-throated support of many Romanian fans in attendance at Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on Saturday, the 26-year-old battled her way past Sloane Stephens to become the first Romanian to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Ruzici in 1978.
Fellow Romanian groundbreaker Nadia Comaneci, who helped foster a gymnastics boom in Romania after she won three gold medals in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, and another two in 1980 in Moscow, knows of the power of a seminal achievement in sport.
“Every 40, 50 years, there comes somebody who breaks the rules, and they make history,” Comaneci told Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times. “I think it’s great. It’s amazing for Romania, for sport in Romania, because you always have a young generation who look up to someone and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”
Halep’s effort was particularly inspiring because it was a work of perseverance. After dropping her first three major finals–including a heartbreaker at Roland Garros last year–and enduring a trying 2017 that saw her lose three times when a win would have taken her to No.1 in the world for the first time, she has picked herself off the canvas to realize her childhood dream.
Halep, who won the Girls’ singles title at Roland Garros in 2008, became the first Romanian to ever finish a season as World No.1 in 2017, but her heartbreak wasn’t over—she lost a grueling Australian Open final to Caroline Wozniacki in January and had to be hospitalized for dehydration later that evening. But the struggle and the associated doubts are all behind her now—all that’s left is immense relief, and pride.
“The fact that I didn’t give up after [last year's final in Paris] means that I’m strong inside and I do this just because I love this sport,” Halep said, according to Rheem Abulleil of Sport 360. “I love to be competitive on court. And I have learned in those 12 months that if you don’t give up you’re able to do anything. So I hope the kids are taking this and the Romanians will believe more in themselves.”
Romanians will get a chance to see Simona in person on Monday when she will celebrate her new status and show off the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen at the National Arena Stadium in Bucharest, which can hold up to 55,000 spectators.
Simona is presenting the Roland Garros trophy tomorrow night 8PM on the National Arena Stadium in Bucharest. 55k people can fill in the stadium. Time to celebrate her, Romania 🇹🇩🇹🇩🇹🇩 pic.twitter.com/4wRHgy69WH
— Ramona Toderaş (@RamonaToderas) June 10, 2018
Perhaps the next Romanian Grand Slam champion will be in attendance? One can certainly dream, now more than ever.