Halep 'stronger mentally' as she seeks first grand slam title

Simona Halep is pleased the likes of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova are competing at this year's French Open.

Simona Halep during the 2017 French Open final   -  Getty Images

World number one Simona Halep claims she is "stronger mentally" as she looks to go one better than last year at the French Open and claim her maiden grand slam title.

The Romanian lost in last year's final in Paris, at the time her second title-deciding defeat after also coming close at Roland Garros three years earlier.

She subsequently came out on the wrong side of a tough three-setter against Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open final at the start of 2018 but Halep insists she is in a positive frame of mind as she looks to cement her place at the top of the women's game.

Asked to assess her outlook heading into the season's second major, she told reporters: "I think I'm a better player if we compare it to last year. I'm stronger mentally.

"I think I have worked a lot and improved. I just want to focus on what I have to do to get better and better."

Reaching the final in 2017, where she lost to Jelena Ostapenko, means Halep has a lot of ranking points to defend over the next fortnight, and she concedes that is another issue she must contend with.

"This year I come with this pressure but I don't want to focus on that," she added.

"Of course I have more confidence this year because last year I had a great result. But that doesn't mean this year is going to be the same."

The competition in 2018 is arguably tougher than it was 12 months ago with Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka all in the main draw.

Rather than be daunted by the threat posed by a trio of former world number ones, Halep embraced their return.

"I feel that now everyone is here, the tournament is complete and everyone is here to show that tennis is nice and that everyone can win it," she said.

"[It's also good that] these girls are coming back, Vika [Azarenka], Serena, with the kid, which is amazing. It makes it a little bit different and also special."