LONDON (Reuters) - With no other top-10 seed left in her half of the draw, Simona Halep could be forgiven for thinking that this might be the year when all roads at Wimbledon lead to the final.
After all, she has already reached the season’s first two major finals, winning at Roland Garros and finishing runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in Australia.
However, it was just as well she is not one to indulge in such runaway dreams as she got a rude reality check on Thursday when she fell 5-3 behind in the first set of her second-round contest against China’s Zheng Saisai.
The inscrutable look on her coach Darren Cahill’s face gave nothing away but he must have wondered if Halep would be the next big-name casualty at the grasscourt major. By the end of day four, five of the top six seeds had failed to survive.
But his Romanian charge showed all the hallmarks of a Grand Slam champion as she won the next 10 games on the trot to emerge unscathed from that fright and secure a 7-5 6-0 win.
“I had (the) pressure (a) little bit of (possibly) losing that set. But I didn’t panic. I think this was the best thing that I did. I was just calm,” the top seed, who will next face Hsieh Su-wei from Taiwan, told reporters.
“I really believe that I have the power to come back if I stay focused. I just opened my game better. After the first set, I started to play much better.”
While Halep has conquered all before her on clay and proved she can make a big impression on hard courts, having reached the Australian Open final this year, grass remains a challenge.
Asked what she needs to do to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish, she said: “You need a better game, in my opinion, to win on grass. You have to be more aggressive, to go to the net more.
“I’m trying to adjust on this surface as much as possible. I have the courage to say maybe I have a chance to win this title. But I don’t want to focus on that. I just want to focus match by match.”
So did she think her chances of winning the title had improved after the exit of players such as last year’s champion Garbine Muguruza, Wozniacki and twice Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova?
“Well, (it) doesn’t affect me; doesn’t mean that I will win the tournament because they lost. (It) can happen also to me. I’m just trying to stay there point by point, just thinking positive, nothing else,” she added with a wry smile.
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Fallon and Ken Ferris