Simona Halep begins her title defence on Tuesday, kicking off against Ajla Tomljanovic in round one. With two finals and a title in the last 5 years to cement her argument as the best clay player on tour, the Romanian has to be considered the favourite going into the tournament.
The former No.1 did not win a clay tournament in her lead-in tournaments, making the final of Madrid before losing her opener in Rome. The three set defeat to Marketa Vondrousova came as a shock but the Czech has been making waves on tour this year. She had withdrawn from Stuttgart at the beginning of the clay season with a hip injury but it would appear those issues are all but gone.
Tomljanovic made the fourth round in 2014 but has otherwise not amounted to much on the clay except for in Rabat. She made the final in 2018 and followed that up with another strong run this year, eventually losing in the semi finals to Johanna Konta. Now representing Australia, the 26 year-old will be hoping to be in the seeding places come the next few slams. Wimbledon may be too soon, especially with such a tough opening round.
“It’s going to be different because it’s clay court, so the things are changing. But still it’s going to be a very tough match. She’s powerful. She hits the ball strong.” Halep said of the matchup, winning their only previous meeting last year on hard courts.
Halep is pretty content coming into the tournament, even with the pressure of defending her title. “Mentally, I am pretty relaxed, I know it’s a little bit of pressure there, because I’m a defending champion, but it’s first time when it happens.” she said. “So I just want to take the positive, and to be in this position I think is the best thing.”
Prediction – Simona Halep in straight sets