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Halep hungry for No.1 ranking ahead of Aegon International

EASTBOURNE, Great Britain - Simona Halep still feels the sting of coming so close to winning her maiden Slam at Roland Garros two weeks ago, but the World No.2 is fit and ready to fire as she gets her grass season underway this week at the Aegon International.

"I'm relaxed, I'm ready to start again," Halep told reporters during All Access Hour on Monday. "Still sad, but it's normal.

Eager to shake off her disappointing Roland Garros defeat to Jelena Ostapenko, Simona Halep has another shot of wresting World No.1 from Angelique Kerber; find out how and learn more about the Romanian's grass court preparation right here on wtatennis.com.
"I still have, before going to sleep, some thoughts about that final, but it's good and keeps me on my toes."

Playing against 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko in the French Open final, Halep led by a set and 3-0, with break points for a 4-0 lead, before seeing the big-hitting Latvian begin to find her range and edge out a three-set win. The title would have elevated Halep to No.1 in the rankings ahead of Angelique Kerber. Instead, the woman who dominated the clay season, posting an 18-3 record on the dirt, has had to process a gut-wrenching loss.

"The very tough thought, is at a set and 3-0 that I couldn't take that game," Halep said. "I had so many break points. Now I'm thinking that I should have hit that ball, the return, the second serve, and just go for it. But I didn't. So that one is killing me, actually.

"I think I did it well, but those returns I should have gone for it. This is the only one regret."

To process the loss, Halep took off to Greece for a much needed holiday to sort out her thoughts. "The first few days at home were tough," she said. "I didn't enjoy much. But then on the holiday I enjoyed a lot and I relaxed myself there."

"I just stayed in myself, putting the thoughts in the right way. I took the positives. I had a great clay court season. Many matches won against good players. I have nothing to complain about.

"Just that next time if I would be in the same situation to be more brave."

The best sign that Halep is ready to put Paris behind her is her presence in the Eastbourne draw. Halep took a late wildcard into the tournament and her coach Darren Cahill is scheduled to land on Monday. She has enjoyed some success on grass, having made the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014 and the quarterfinals last year. But it remains the toughest surface for her to solve.

"The return is important, because the opponents' serve is really tough to return," she said. "I have to be fast and I have to [react] quickly because I don't have time to think like on clay court.

"I have just to block a little bit the balls and to stay there aggressive. When I say 'aggressive,' I mean close to the line and just push back the opponents."

Halep's Eastbourne campaign is more than just a warm-up event ahead of Wimbledon. It also offers her the chance to become the first Romanian woman to be No.1. To do so, Halep must make the semifinals to have a chance at overtaking Angelique Kerber at the top spot. Kerber is also playing Eastbourne, and if she makes the quarterfinals or semifinals, Halep will need to make the final to overtake her. If Kerber makes the final, Halep will need to win the title.

Asked whether the ranking was on her mind this week, Halep smiled. "Now that I'm so close, it's like it's coming more into my mind and into my soul.

"I really want to get there. I'm close but still far. So I have just to take match by match and to do everything I can to be No. 1. It's going to be a big thing for me."

When another reporter pointed out the current struggles of both tour's No.1s, Kerber and Andy Murray, Halep was unwavering.

"I want [it]. And I want to face that challenge," she said with a grin.

"In this moment I say that there is no reason to have pressure [if you are No.1], because you reached your goal and then you have to relax and to play better. But you never know. I have no idea, so first I have to get there, and then I will tell you."

Halep opens her tournament against Duan Ying-Ying in the second round.

Source: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/halep-aims-for-no1-ranking-ahead-of-aegon-international-eastbourne

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