Former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep knows she now has competition as the most popular tennis player in Romania after Emma Raducanu burst on to the scene.
Briton Raducanu, whose father is Romanian, won an army of fans after her stunning win at the US Open last summer.
While Halep remains the queen in Bucharest and beyond, she says that the teenager’s success last year has inspired a lot of people in her country.
“Well, many people were following her when she won US Open,” Halep said. “I feel like the country was happy for her. Her being half Romanian means a lot also for the Romanians.
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“Many kids are following her. I think she inspired many kids back in Romania, so it’s a good thing for our country.”
Raducanu cited the 30-year-old as one of her idols and the pair almost played twice at the back end of last season, including in Romania, but they have not formed a relationship yet.
“We haven’t hit,” Halep said. “Tried once but it didn’t work. We speak just a little bit. But we don’t have long conversations.
“So no, we are not friends; we are just colleagues on the tour.”
This is Halep’s first return to SW19 since winning the 2019 title, having seen the 2020 edition cancelled due to Covid-19 and then missing last year through injury.
It is Wimbledon tradition for the defending women’s champion to open Centre Court action on the first Tuesday, something Halep was not able to do due to her absence last year.
But with 2021 champion Ash Barty now retired there was an opening, but tournament officials instead gave the slot to world number one Iga Swiatek.
Halep admits she is disappointed to miss out.
“I’ve said this too much to say. But I can say that I feel sad that I missed it because I was injured, so I couldn’t really take the chance,” she said.
“It would have been very nice to open the tournament. But my chance is gone. So probably in this life I can have another chance, so I will look forward to that.
“Not that simple, but I’m going to work for that.”