PARIS (Reuters) - Most players are reluctant to admit they get shaky on court but not Simona Halep who embraces the nervous energy and is ready to feel all the emotion as she progresses at the French Open.
The world number one has played three Grand Slam finals and lost them all, including two at Roland Garros, and rare are the times when she does not open up about her early match jitters.
On Monday, she blazed into the quarter-finals by crushing Belgian Elise Mertens 6-2 6-1 as she showed her full range of weapons.
The 26-year-old Romanian started slowly but once she found her groove, there was nothing the 16th seed could do to avoid a one-sided defeat.
“I don’t know how the other players are before the matches, but I think I am very nervous before every match, and this is because I am like this,” said Halep, who will next meet either German Angelique Kerber or local favourite Caroline Garcia.
“So I’m not going to fight with myself about that. But I try to improve this thing, and I try to enjoy my nerves, because they are special when you play in a Grand Slam.”
Despite the nerves, Halep was way too good for her 22-year-old opponent on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Mertens entered the tournament having won two second-tier events on clay including 16 wins and one defeat, albeit against Halep last month in Madrid when she was comprehensively beaten.
The story was the same on Monday as Halep, a French Open finalist in 2014 and 2017, broke for 2-1 in the opening set and never looked back as she outmanoeuvred Mertens, who was sent chasing the ball all over the court.
The Belgian pulled a break back in the second set but then trailed 5-0 as the top seed punched a ticket for the last eight when Mertens served a double fault on the first match point.
“It was not that easy, she is a tough opponent,” said Halep, who is chasing her maiden Grand Slam title.
“Those four games at the beginning were really important, and after that I relaxed and I could play a little bit better.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris