Perfect prep: Halep takes 14-match win streak to French Open

FILE - In this Thursday, May 30, 2019, file photo, Romania's Simona Halep plays a shot against Poland's Magda Linette during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium in Paris. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, May 30, 2019, file photo, Romania's Simona Halep plays a shot against Poland's Magda Linette during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium in Paris. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ROME – Two months of physical training. Then three months of practice on clay courts. Followed by two straight titles on the red dirt.

Amid all the tumult of the coronavirus pandemic, Simona Halep might very well have found the perfect formula to prepare for the French Open.

When the clay-court Grand Slam tournament begins Sunday, 2018 champion Halep will be on court against 70th-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo.

“I was very strict to the schedule, and I have worked a lot and I have improved a lot physically,” Halep said of her time at home in Romania during the lockdown. “That’s why I can run, I can feel fit every match. My legs are stronger and stronger, which gives me confidence during the matches, and also on clay it’s (helpful).”

Ranked second but seeded No. 1 at Roland Garros because defending champion Ash Barty is not playing, Halep enters with a 9-0 record since tennis restarted, with titles on clay in Prague and Rome — and a 14-match winning streak that dates to February.

Separated from her Australian coach Darren Cahill for seven months during the pandemic, Halep spent the extended break from competition with her Romanian coach, Artemon Apostu-Efremov.

“First part of pandemic, it was mostly physical, because in Romania we weren’t allowed to do any tennis until 15th of May,” Apostu-Efremov told The Associated Press. “Then when it was possible to go out and play again … all our practice was on clay.

“We’ve been, for a while, on clay," he said, "and you get more used (to) the bounce, with the angles, and I hope this will be an advantage for her.”