World no. 2 and a two-time Major champion Simona Halep still remembers how she met Roger Federer at Wimbledon. A talented junior received an autograph from the Swiss star and a couple of inspiring words that urged her to push even harder and chase her tennis dreams.
As we all know, Simona accomplished those, becoming world no. 1 in 2017 and claiming two Major titles at Roland Garros 2018 and Wimbledon 2019. In 2020, the Romanian played only a couple of tournaments, reaching the Australian Open semi-final before winning back-to-back titles in Dubai, Prague and Rome.
Halep suffered a terrible loss to Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros in her last match of the season, working hard ahead of the new season and hoping for more notable titles on her tally. Roger was among those who defended the Romanian when she took the WTA throne without winning a Major, praising her work ethic and consistency.
Halep is aware that Roger has to retire some day, calling it a tragedy for our sport but understanding that the private life and family are more important than the tennis court, the one where he has achieved everything and led many generations into tennis.
Unlike Halep, Federer will not compete at the upcoming Australian Open, skipping the entire 2020 season and still working on a comeback. The Swiss reached the semi-final in Melbourne in January, struggling with a knee injury after that and taking more time to recover and hit the court again.
Simona Halep spoke about Roger Federer and his legacy.
Roger underwent surgeries in February and May and decided to miss the rest of the year, unable to play following the season restart and setting eyes on 2021. A few weeks ago, Federer said it would be tight for him to recover for the Australian Open in February.
That turned out to be the truth, with the six-time champion withdrawing from the season's opening Major event, remaining on the practice court in Dubai and hoping to compete again at the end of February or early March.
Turning 40 next August, Roger is still keen to return at his best and fight for the notable titles for another year or two. "I didn't know how to react when I saw Roger; I timidly handed him my badge, and I asked him if he could give me an autograph.
He was very kind, spending a few seconds in a chat and giving me encouraging words. When Roger retires, it will be a tragedy for all of us. He was an idol for the entire generation, achieving everything on the court and standing as a role model for many.
We will have to respect his decision, though, because his private life is more important than tennis itself," Simona Halep said.