Lucky 13th for Halep
Romanian, the 13th player to be year-end No. 1, targets a Grand Slam title next
As Simona Halep slipped the Tiffany and Co. 2017 World No. 1 ring onto her left middle finger in a presentation ceremony yesterday afternoon, she joked: "I am not getting engaged (to anyone). I'm getting engaged to tennis."
Despite being knocked out of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in the group stage last Friday, the 26-year-old still finished the season as the top-ranked women's player.
She had caught a lucky break, as Karolina Pliskova, who needed to win the tournament to seize first place in the WTA rankings, was knocked out of the US$7 million (S$9.56m) event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium following her 7-6(11/9) 6-3 loss to Caroline Wozniacki in the last four on Saturday.
"I'm really excited to be here and nervous, it's an honour to be the 13th No. 1 in the world at the end of the year," said Halep in a ceremony yesterday at the Singapore Sports Hub, where she was also presented with a trophy.
"All the work I have done this year has paid off."
The 1.68m-tall right-hander had struggled with injury earlier this year, but managed to reach the French Open final, where she lost 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to Jelena Ostapenko.
Also, she reached - but lost - the finals of the Italian Open in Rome (May), the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (August) and the China Open in Beijing (October), but retained her title at the Mutua Madrid Open (May).
While she previously described her journey to the top of the rankings as a "marathon" and one filled with pressure, a relaxed-looking Halep was just basking in the moment yesterday, and thinking of her upcoming vacation.
She said: "Now I don't feel any pressure, because the season is finished, but I can imagine that it's going to be a little bit more difficult (from now). I have to work harder to stay there, but in my mind now is just to enjoy the moment and we will see.
"I touched everything I wanted about my dream in this way, because I have many others. But I just want to be relaxed, to enjoy tennis more, and to give my best every time I go on court. This is everything I can ask from myself."
The chief goal for Halep in the new season will be a Grand Slam title - the French Open final loss to Ostapenko was the closest she came to winning a Major this year - and she will start plotting her path after her post-season break.
She said: "After the holiday, I will sit down and I will set my new goals. But the biggest one is the Grand Slam. For this I'm working (towards) every year."
But, her task will be undoubtedly tougher in the expected presence of top players such as Serena Williams (childbirth), Petra Kvitova (injury), Victoria Azarenka (custody battle for son) and Maria Sharapova (drugs ban), all of whom missed much of this season.
Halep, though, feels she is up for the challenge.
She said: "Every tournament, every week and every day, I can say is going to be a big challenge, starting now, but I cannot be stressed about that.
"I just want to work harder to get better, because I need to do that, and we will see what is going to happen.
"In my opinion, it's great what I have done until now, so I just want to make it like to be there (at world No. 1) more often, and (win) a Grand Slam."