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Simona Halep focuses energy on breaking grand slam duck at Australian Open

Simona Halep focuses energy on breaking grand slam duck at Australian Open
By PA Sport

13/01/2018 at 13:18Updated 13/01/2018 at 13:29

Having finally ticked the world number one box, Simona Halep is focusing all her energy on trying to break her grand slam duck at the Australian Open.

The Romanian was beaten in the French Open final for the second time last year but her consistency saw her finish the season at the top of the rankings.

It became something of an odyssey for Halep, who having been one match away from number one three times clinched it at the fourth attempt.

"It's special for me," she said.

"It's nice to be in this position. I don't feel pressure. I feel okay. I feel fit. I feel ready to start. "Of course I want to stay here at the top as long as possible. But I'm not doing everything for this reason. I have one more goal: to win a grand slam."

Winning the title in Shenzhen last week secured Halep top seeding at a grand slam for the first time but she is one of six women who could finish the tournament ranked number one.

Simona Halep of Romania hits a return against Nicole Gibbs of the US in the first round of the Shenzhen Open tennis tournament in Shenzhen, in China's southern Guangdong province on January 1, 2018.

Simona Halep of Romania hits a return against Nicole Gibbs of the US in the first round of the Shenzhen Open tennis tournament in Shenzhen, in China's southern Guangdong province on January 1, 2018.Getty Images

Caroline Wozniacki ended last season with the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals and is back at number two.

The Dane was 20 when she first topped the rankings and it is six years since she last held the position.

"I think it is something that would always be special and really awesome," she said of the prospect of a return. "At the same time, I'm just doing what I can do. Everything else will kind of fall into place.

"If I do it, that would be amazing. If I don't, it's still great. I've been there before. It's a little different, I suppose, this time around.

"I feel good. I think I've had a great last year. Something I'm very proud of. Hopefully I can build on that."

Garbiñe Muguruza - WTA Sidney 2018

Garbiñe Muguruza - WTA Sidney 2018Getty Images

Third-ranked Garbine Muguruza is the only one of the top four who has won a grand slam having triumphed at the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon last year.

But consistency still eludes the Spaniard and she arrived in Melbourne with doubts over a thigh problem after withdrawing during the tournament in Sydney.

She said: "It's better. I'm training every day. I'm doing everything I can to be full recovered. Hopefully I'm pain-free and everything-free once the tournament starts."

Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Jelena Ostapenko are the other contenders for the number one spot but in excess of 20 women have been touted as potential winners of the title.

In the continued absence of Serena Williams, the women's game remains in a state of flux and a good percentage of the draw will feel they could emulate Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens, who were both unseeded slam champions in 2017.

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Serena Williams said she was not where she wanted to be "personally"PA Sport

Chris Evert believes the uncertainty should be embraced.

Speaking on behalf of espn.co.uk, the 18-time grand slam singles champion said: "There's an abundance of talent out there.

"Yes, we have nobody besides Serena who has taken the bull by the horns. On the other side of the coin, it's probably more intriguing because you have 20 players that can win a grand slam. Certainly you couldn't have said that 10 years ago or even five years ago.

"We'll see what Serena comes back. It might be a different story. But for right now this is a different look. Everyone has to make adjustments in their thought process and their enthusiasm when they watch women's tennis. It is intriguing. Before it wasn't."

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