Simona Halep is the No. 1 player in the world. She has made three Grand Slam finals, has won 16 career titles and is a national hero in Romania.
She has marquee sponsors like Mercedes, and her name is chanted across stadiums worldwide.
That kind of success and status comes with some nice perks sometimes and for Halep, one true highlight was getting invited to an Andrea Bocelli concert last August in Italy.
“It was a really great feeling and I felt that because of what I’m doing in sport, I’m there,” she told me in Madrid last week.
This week in Rome, she got to attend another Bocelli performance, in a far more intimate setting, along with a few others players including Juan Martin del Potro.
“I met him in Rome for the first time last year. Luckily I lost in the US Open first round so I could attend the concert,” she jokingly said on Wednesday, following her secondround victory over Osaka.
“It’s amazing. I’ve been a huge fan of his for many years. I just love the way he sings, and all the stories. It was amazing also to be here a few days ago, so close. It was a nice experience and I felt relaxed, maybe that’s why I played so well.”
Halep indeed looked relaxed on court but the same cannot be said of Osaka, who told her coach Sascha Bajin during an on-court coaching session that she wanted to cry.
The always honest and reflective Osaka explained to us exactly how she was feeling during that conversation.
“He was asking me, like, ‘what do I think I should do’, or something like that. And then he was like… I didn’t say, I wanna cry. I said… Maybe I did. Actually, maybe I did,” she said.
“It’s just one of the most helpless feelings. I know I should be making these balls; but for some reason they’re not going in, and I don’t really know what I should be doing at this point.
“The balls that I practise, like I practise every day, they go in. Today it doesn’t go in. It’s just one of those moments, where you’re a little bit depressed and stuff. But I think this is the first match of the year that I’ve felt like this.
“The last year has been a roller coaster. This year I feel it’s been more stable. I’m really proud of myself for that.”