World number one Simona Halep said Sunday she was looking to lay the groundwork for a Grand Slam breakthrough at the French Open in the Rome WTA clay-court tournament.
The 26-year-old finished runner-up in Rome last year before losing in the final in Roland Garros for a second time. She was also a finalist in the Australian Open this year.
“Of course, the Grand Slam is now for me the most important tournament,” said top seed Halep ahead of the French Open which starts in Paris on May 21.
Romanian Halep has received a first round bye and will open against either former two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus or Japan’s Naomi Osaka on the clay surface at the Foro Italico.
“But, I cannot plan anything. So I’m taking every tournament as important. I’m giving everything I have every week. Like I did before Melbourne, I went to Shenzhen, I won singles, doubles.
“I’m doing nothing special before a Grand Slam. Just taking care of your body to be healthy. And if nothing bad happens, I feel like every time you are ready.
“I’m working every day, I’m playing every day. So, we’ll see what is gonna happen. But, the goal is the Grand Slam this year.”
Defending champion Halep lost her first match at the Madrid Open in three years on Thursday when she was beaten by Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals.
But that has not dented her confidence.
“Different tournament, different conditions,” she said. “I’m coming here with confidence that I’m playing okay on clay.
“I played the final last year so I have, you know, good feelings,” added Halep, the winner of 16-WTA titles.
Former four-time winner Serena Williams has pulled out of Rome as she returns from maternity leave with sister Venus, 37, seeded eighth in a tournament she won back in 1999.