2013 was a breakthrough, record-setting year for 22-year-old Romanian Simona Halep. At the close of 2012, Halep was ranked number 47 in WTA; yet by the time the 2013 season wrapped up, the ambitious player had snagged the number 11 slot in WTA rankings and been honored with WTA Most Improved Player and ESPN Court’s 2013 Most Improved Player awards.
Halep grew up in Constanta, Romania and began playing tennis at the age of four in order to mirror her big brother. Her talent and dedication to the sport of tennis drove her onto the world stage when she won the 2008 Junior French Open Tournament at the age of 16. Since her days on the junior circuit, Halep has been climbing ranks at a startling speed and is a player to keep an eye on at 2014 Grand Slam Tournaments.
Halep is currently ranked number five in the world and number one in Romania and is the highest ranked Romanian in WTA’s history. The previous best world ranking by a Romanian woman was by Irina Spirlea at number 7 in 1997. Halep also won six titles (Sofia, Moscow, New Haven, Nurnberg, Hertogenbosch, Budapest) last year on four different surfaces—clay, grass, and outdoor and indoor hardcourts in Europe, North America and Asia—which was an accomplishment in 2013 that was surpassed only by Serena Williams. Yet before 2013, Halep had never won a tournament title—a fact that makes her 2013 accomplishments that much more impressive.
Despite her smaller stature (5’6”), Halep is a powerhouse and considered an aggressive baseliner. She has noted in several interviews that her success in 2013 was due to a combination of being more aggressive on the court while also learning to relax more and to enjoy the game. Halep tends to make few errors, hits very effective down the line and cross-court flat shots, and is very agile in her movements on the court.
Wim Fissette, who previously coached Kim Clijsters and Sabine Lisicki, became her coach in January of this year. Virginia Ruzici—a former Romanian pro player who won the 1978 French Open—currently manages her.