Simona Halep, solo pilot, soars to new heights

Novak Djokovic has Boris Becker, Roger Federer is thriving with Stefan Edberg and Andy Murray is finally winning grand slams under Ivan Lendl’s watchful eye.

Rafael Nadal; well, he has Uncle Toni.

Simona Halep? She’s coachless – but that’s okay. The Romanian tennis revelation is into the Australian Open quarter-finals too.

The 22-year-old world No.11 takes on Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova at the Australian Open on Wednesday feeling vindicated for going solo after making the last eight at a major for the very first time.

“I did it alone,” Halep said after continuing her rapid rise to prominence at Melbourne Park.

“I just want to find my way from last year because I was very aggressive and I had a lot of confidence in myself last year.”

And so she should.

This time last year, Halep was ranked 48th in the world and without a tour title.

But after snaring six in a stunning 2013, the WTA’s newcomer of the year is looking to launch the new season with a bang.

Halep’s Melbourne run has guaranteed her a place in the world’s top 10 – but she still wants more.

“I’m really happy to hear that, but I have to fight next round, because a grand slam is a grand slam. I don’t care about the ranking now,” she said.

“I won last year tournaments, but smaller, very small, compared to this one.

“I have just to be happy on court and to try my best, to move well and to be relaxed because it’s my chance, and I have to fight for it.

“There is no pressure on me because I have just to enjoy the quarter-finals. It’s the first time in my life.”

For Cibulkova, it’s her first time in the Australian Open quarter-finals, having already made the last eight in Paris, London and New York.

The 20th seed took down Maria Sharapova in her last round and says she’s not finished yet.

“I came here to play my best tennis,” Cibulkova said.

“What I can say, you know? I want to go forward in tournaments.”

Wednesday’s winner will take on two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka or Polish fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in Friday’s semi-finals.

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