Simona Halep is already a huge hero in her home country, and this week, she became an even bigger one by leading the Romanian Fed Cup team to its first semifinal.
Ahead of the monumental tie against the Czech Republic in Ostrava, the 27-year-old fondly took a look back at her first experience with Fed Cup in 2008.
"I was in Australia playing juniors, I lost in the semis and then I flew straight to Budapest without bags, without anything," Halep said. "It was so cold there, so it was a little bit of a tough moment but it was nice, a good experience. And since then, I’ve played every time for the Fed Cup."
A seasoned champion, Halep is no stranger to playing under pressure, but the unique Fed Cup environment brings out a different challenge.
"Fed Cup means that I am playing not for myself, I am playing for Romania," Halep said. "It gives extra pressure for sure, but also extra motivation.
"It gives me an extra boost of energy that gives me more confidence during the year and during my career."
On Sunday, Romania earned a place in the Fed Cup semifinal with a win over the defending champion Czech Republic. After dispatching Katerina Siniakova in straight sets, Halep won a crucial three-set rubber over Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
Her teammates Monica Niculescu and Irina-Camelia Begu then upset world No. 1's Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova to seal the 3-2 upset.
Since winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open and achieving the world No.1 ranking, Halep has been able to enjoy her time on court more and it shows.
"I have accomplished everything in my professional life, and now the priorities are changing a little bit," Halep said. "I just want to enjoy more the tennis, to be relaxed around the tournaments and around the cities to see different things, to live different. I started already to live different and I feel much better."