When Simona Halep lost to Serena Williams in the final at Cincinnati nearly three weeks ago, she told her as they shook hands at the net that she would be rooting for her to win the Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open.
There was a catch, of course.
Halep is a match away from a potential meeting with Williams in the Open final. Halep is scheduled to play Flavia Pennetta in the first semifinal Friday while Williams plays Pennetta's countrywoman Roberta Vinci in the other.
The spunky Halep, 23, has ascended to No. 2 in the world behind Williams. She lost in the final of two hard court tournaments this summer, a return to tennis after a big disappointment at Wimbledon where she lost in the first round.
The Romanian is an emotional player, getting mad at herself easily. In her quarterfinal victory against Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday she was demonstrably upset about letting Azarenka hold serve in the first game of the second set.
She took a break, a real break, after the Wimbledon ouster. That loss came after a second-round loss at the French Open where the year before she had finished runner-up.
"That helped me to relax myself," she said. "I had a lot of pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself when I played the French Open, because in my mind was that I have to repeat the result from last year. So it was a bad thing."
Halep said she didn't pick up a racket for six weeks. She returned refreshed and energized, though a lack of energy doesn't ever seem to be a weakness for her.
You could say that her overall strength is that she has no weaknesses, and in her 5-6, 132-pound body she generates surprising power.
Halep acknowledges that she possesses power, though she views it differently. As to what she told Serena about winning the Open to complete the calendar year Grand Slam, Halep said: "I said, 'If I'm in the final, I want to win.' "