To be the world’s best in any sport takes talent, determination, commitment, grit, energy – and the ability to think outside the square.
Normally that involves a different tactical approach: in tennis it involves staying cool, being flexible and mixing things up depending on what surface a match is being played, or who the opponent is.
Simona Halep, who comes into the n Open as the world’s No. 1 ranked female player, has ticked all those boxes on her ascent to the summit.
But she has also shown herself capable of thinking laterally off the court, as she demonstrated earlier this month when she didn’t panic when her clothing deal with leading sports outfitter Adidas came to an end.
When she played the Shenzhen Open in China in the first week of the new year as a warm up for the first grand slam of the season she didn’t have an outfit supplier.
Halep didn’t bother popping down to the closest sports shop – she simply searched the internet for a tennis dress she liked, got her managers to find some seamstresses who could copy the pattern and got a new outfit knocked up in 24 hours, ready for her to wear in the tournament.
It’s not the sort of sideways thinking that will necessarily help her win her first grand slam when she steps out in Melbourne on Tuesday for her first round game against n wildcard Destanee Aiava, but it illustrates the sort of phlegmatic approach that any athlete needs to reach the heights of their discipline.
“I sent a picture. It was a site, in China actually, and one of my managers helped me, and in 24 hours I had the outfit, and [it was] perfect,” she said with a smile . “Everything is on the Internet now.”
Having reached the exalted position at the head of the rankings, Halep now only has one goal in sight: to win her first major.
“It’s nice to be in this position. It’s really, really nice. I don’t feel pressure. I feel OK. I feel fit. I feel ready to start. Every match of a grand slam is tough. Nothing changes that I’m No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3. I’m just looking forward to starting the tournament and to give the best.
“I started the year better. I am more relaxed. I’m enjoying the time on court. I just sometimes try to change something in my game, to adjust, to improve.
“The ranking doesn’t matter any more … of course, I want to stay 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 … but now I’m focusing on my game. I really want to get better and to improve.”
The fact that she is playing an n does not bother her. She knows the crowd will be rooting for her opponent, but the Romanian knows that just goes with the turf at a big tournament like this.
“I heard that she’s a very talented player and young. So it’s going to be a big challenge. Is not easy to play with an n home.
“But I played in the past. I faced many of these things, so I’m ready to play her. We’ll see on court what is going to happen. I don’t want to look much about how she’s playing. I will try to solve the problem there on court.”