Simona Halep Interview -”Every day I play for my country. Next to my name it shows the Romanian flag”
I met Simona Halep for the first time on April 6, 2015, in the last day of the first edition of #EnjoyBucharest. At the end of the meeting I put all my courage together and asked: – Simona, I also practiced performance sports for 16 years, my childhood was not much different from yours; currently I […]
I met Simona Halep for the first time on April 6, 2015, in the last day of the first edition of #EnjoyBucharest. At the end of the meeting I put all my courage together and asked:
– Simona, I also practiced performance sports for 16 years, my childhood was not much different from yours; currently I am a sports blogger. Would it be possible to meet for an interview?
– Sure. Tomorrow, after the training?
She shows up in the lobby of the Stejarii Country Club. Large, green-crystal eyes, ponytail hair. She wears sports outfits and walks at a much lower pace than when on the tennis playground running the distance between corners. There is absolutely no person not turning the head to look at her.
She tells me that the training she’s just finished was really tough and I promised a not taking too long interview.
For anyone it’s hard to find the patience for another person after an 8-hour office work! While for her, it is running and running kilometers every day; one apnea after another, hitting the tennis ball over and over, all the time making decisions which make the difference between right or wrong, all of this translated into two short simple words: In and Out.
T: Well, when you are a child, it was clear. All pleasure. You go there, play tennis, sleep and wake up there. When was it the moment when you realized for the first time that ‘Hey, look, I could make a profession out of it?’
When I was 14, I decided that I wanted to be a professional tennis player and that my life dream is to play tennis and become a great tennis player. Obviously, I faced many hardships during my career but I never said I give up. It was my dream, my passion and… happily it still is! I can feel it and this is what gives me the motivation and confidence to go on and do more!
T: At some moment, I reached a point (as a sportsman) when I had to choose whether to focus on school and stick to it or to take the way towards performance sports. Have you experienced a similar moment?
Yes, I have. There was never a question that I should give up tennis for school. I attended school as much as possible until I moved to Bucharest (from Constanta); after I moved in Bucharest, I continued to attend school, pretty rare though, but I tried to have everything completed and did my best to continue. I also graduated a University, not by daily courses since it was impossible for me to go to school everyday.
Nevertheless, the teachers really understood and supported me till the end. As I said, I had many difficult moments but I overcome it well.
My family was there for me, my 100% unconditionally supporting family, no matter what. They made everything and gave everything for me to reach where I wanted to reach. Indeed, there comes a time when you wonder: will you go ahead?
You take big risks and you have to have a sort of craziness, like my father… well, it is indeed crazy to invest everything without being sure that your child will become a tennis player or somebody in any other sport. There was an enormous madness in my family, a huge desire for me to accomplish myself as a sportswoman. I loved tennis a lot!
While she was talking, moments in my own family crossed my mind. The matches, which my father, as crazy as hers, wouldn’t have missed for nothing in the world, the defeats which mattered, the personal record victories and the wish running through my blood. Simona Halep spoke about herself but also about me and I was devouring her each and every word.
T: I assume that their being so supportive made you happy and felt no pressure put on you in any way.
No, they have never put any pressure on me and there was no pressure in anything that we did together. My father even used to scold me when I was nervous before or during the match. I was really emotional and, sometimes, I even cried for I had to go to play, I felt somehow ashamed. But they were there for me, I enjoyed each moment and, perhaps, now this makes me love tennis even more.
T: There are many children in Romania practicing sports and they look at you as their model. Does this give you energy or make you feel fully motivated? How do you see it?
First of all I feel pleased in my heart, I feel accomplished because children mean something very special for me. I can not say why I feel what I feel about children, but I adore them! They are most sincere, the better I think. Children always say what they think, nothing more. I have an attraction to children and I am happy I can be a good and positive life example for them. They should have confidence in themselves, from the very beginning… while still very young, they should be confident that it is possible to make their dreams come true but they should also know that hard work, dedication and earnestly is needed!
T: I wonder how you think… is it in Romania an emerging culture of the young person following sports career rather than the traditional education system? It has seldom been an appropriate environment, you had to manage on your own. If parents happen to be fond of sports, they make everything available rather than the system.
Oh, yes. It is hard. I myself received no kind of support… except from my parents. When I was 16, I had a sponsor from Constanta, Mr. Corneliu Idu, who covered all the costs for two years.
He helped me a lot at that moment. It is difficult. It is very expensive and you need to have quite a good financial situation to practice tennis, it is an expensive sport. Yet, as I said, being strongly confident and a little bit crazy you can reach the top even when the financial situation is not that good.
T: If you could talk to a parent whose child you know to be talented and passionate and you would recognize his potential for a great career, what would say?
To give his child the freedom to express the way the child feels, even if nervous, even if, sometimes, the child may wish too much. If I look back, when I was little I wanted to practice very often, everyday, even if it was too early for my age to do it!
Parents should support them and refrain from blaming when they lose. I think that blaming highly inhibits the child and that prevents him from expressing his own inner feeling, making him shut off.
Then, parents should not get too involved in the coach-child relationship. I know my parentsdidn’t interfere at all and that helped a lot. I had the best coaches in the country. Of course, my parents kept an eye on me and accompanied me every where I went for contests and training but they knew how to keep away from the tennis technical instructions. I guess this is a very important thing for any child because gives that child the feeling of freedom. Anyway, when very little, the kid plays for his family and it is his wish to see his parents satisfied and happy and to share his happiness with them.
Yet, it is not very easy for any child to manage his own emotions in such moments because they are still kids and it is difficult for them to know everything and to know what to do in tough moments.
I admit that what she says it is entirely true. Try to remember that, whether if you read this article by chance and you never come back to it: the child plays for his family and wishes to see his parents happy. Do not scold him while doing it!
T: When you played for the first time abroad and represented Romania, how did this make you feel?
It was nice and it is still there in my mind. *she smiles*
I think it is absolutely special to play for your country. When you are little, you want it very much to win for your country… I have the same feeling even now. When I play FedCup I am a completely changed person as compared to the individual contests. My wish to win is enormous. There is someone I play for.
In an individual contest you play for yourself and for your family, those close to you. In FedCup there is something you have to play for, for a country. Now the schedule is changed, times are changed, there are weekly contests.
Right now I do not play in FedCup because I want to be well prepared to play on cinders. I am really tired now to change again the meantime zone and I wish it all for Romania because if I get some good results in Roland Garros then our flag will stay there on the central arena for the whole year. I play for Romania everyday…because Romania is there next to my name. I have always participated in FedCup but now I need to rest and be aware of my limits because it is difficult to go on and on without realizing of what you are doing. It was my decision and anyone is free to have his or her own judgment on it.
And speaking of that decision, let me tell you how I think about it…it is fashionable to say what you think about the work of the others and about their duty to you (inexistent): if I were in her shoes, I would have done exactly the same way!
T: The same message formulated for the parents, can you address it now for a sportsman who feels he is good enough to succeed but, at the same time feels that it does not all depend on him and that the system and circumstances may prevent him from having his dream come true.
It is not easy to answer because, at least for the moment, in our country it is very difficult. There are no such conditions, system, circumstances…I am not too much involved with such things since I have my career and do not have the time and energy to try to change something in this respect. Maybe, when l complete my career I’ll try to help, as much as possible, the children who have no possibility to play but I hope that the state will step in and help the sports federations and the sportsmen who are talented and wish to reach the top.
I thanked her. She smiled, raised and left. I assume she went to pack her things from the locker room at the end of another day of work, the kind of work she loves so much to do.
romanian version interview: link
photo credit: Cristian Șuțu