Simona Halep ambitious but ‘without expectations’ at Australian Open

'I don't know if it's going to happen this year' Simona Halep says of winning a grand slam, 'but this is my biggest goal' ahead of the 2016 Australian Open.

Simona Halep returns a shot during her quarter-final match at the Sydney International on Wednesday. Dan Himbrechts / EPA / January 13, 2016
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Melbourne // World No 2 Simona Halep said Sunday she is determined to taste grand slam glory but is keeping her expectations in check after an injury-marred build-up to the Australian Open.

The Romanian is enjoying her highest ranking after a stellar 2015 in which she won titles at Shenzhen, Dubai and Indian Wells, raking in more than $4.5 million (Dh16.5m) in prize money. World No 1 and 21-time major winner Serena Williams is scheduled to meet her in the final in Australia if the seedings go to plan.

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“I think to win a grand slam,” Halep said when asked about her season’s focus. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen this year, but this is my biggest goal. And to have good matches, have good tournaments, and to play everything I want, that I scheduled already.”

Halep’s chances of landing her first major in Melbourne could be hindered by a niggling achilles injury that forced her out of the lead-up to the Brisbane International. She recovered to make the semi-finals of the Sydney International last week but is not getting her hopes too high of breaking her grand slam duck over the next fortnight.

“I come here without expectations. I have only one tournament before this grand slam,” she said. “Actually I feel good, I feel confident. You never know.”

Halep, now coached by Australian Darren Cahill, has failed to get beyond the quarter-finals in five previous attempts at Melbourne Park. Her best grand slam showing was reaching the 2014 French Open final.

She gets her tournament underway on Tuesday against Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai with a potential quarter-final looming against eighth seed Venus Williams, who has been playing the Australian Open since 1998.

“I think the tournament is open,” Halep said, with most of the women’s top 10 having their grand slam build-up hampered by either illness or injury.

“Everyone has a chance to win this title, I mean from top 10. I think every tournament is open.”

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