Having dropped outside the coveted top 10 world rankings for the first time since January 2014, Halep was falling out of love with tennis.
However, since she started working with Mouratoglou earlier this year Halep says her passion for the sport has been reignited.
“I didn’t really expect that because I’m not very open to people and it’s not easy for me to trust in somebody. But it was just a great connection since the first moment I met him,” Halep says of Mouratoglou.
“I was almost done before coming here because I didn’t have that fire anymore and I didn’t trust that I’m able to play at the highest level again. So coming here I found it and I discovered again why I play tennis,” she adds. “I play tennis because I love it … He brought that fire back.”
“I always love to watch her play. I think she has an incredible game, so she’s super exciting as a player,” Mouratoglou tells CNN Sport. “She was playing great already, but she could play much more. I could see the progress she could make.”
Known by his moniker, “The Coach,” Mouratoglou is one of the most sought-after instructors in tennis.
A year later Baghdatis got to the Australian Open final before losing to Roger Federer and also reached the Wimbledon semifinal that same season.
The secret to his success? “Of course the passion is the most important. (If) the players don’t have the passion, they’re not going to achieve anything great,” said Mouratolgou. “So that’s the key.”
“People also in their life go through moments in which they kind of maybe lose their love for the game for a period of time or have less love for the game,” he adds. “I don’t think she (Halep) lost it.”
What makes a champion
Alongside her physical rehabilitation, Halep has worked with Mouratoglou on rebuilding her confidence.
“He’s super open, so it’s super easy to talk to him,” she tells CNN. “I’m very emotional. I have many fears in general and I doubt myself most of the tim. And it was easy for me to actually express myself the way I am.”
When Mouratoglou appeared in the Netflix series, “The Playbook,” in September 2020, he spoke about how a player’s mental strength can make or break their ability to become a champion.
The series follows world-renowned sports coaches as they share their personal rules for success both inside and outside the arena.
“Everyone has limits, and the limits of everyone are not technical, tactical, physical. They’re mental,” Mouratoglou told the documentary.
“And when you don’t think like a champion, you don’t act like a champion and don’t win like a champion. So it’s very important to make sure the mind works right.”
“He said something like, ‘Soccer starts with the foot, continues with the heart and finishes with the head.'”
“The head is the most important … because if you don’t deeply believe that you can achieve something, you’re not going to go full. You’re going to go halfway. You’re going to find reasons not to do things. You’re going to find excuses,” Mouratoglou says.
“I think a big part of my job to help people, in this case Simona, believe in themselves and their ability to achieve what they want to,” he adds. “I always tell Simona how strong she is mentally because I really believe it.
“She made my job super easy, in a way, by being so open and trusting me so much.”
Partnership with Serena Williams
Mouratoglou is no stranger to reinventing players who have hit rock bottom.
She was also in search of a grand slam victory, having gone for two years without winning a major.
“I’m super proud with what we’ve done with Serena. Now, of course, I’m super thankful for those 10 years that were incredible,” Mouratoglou says. “She’s trusted me for 10 years, which is something that you don’t see very often in the tennis world.”
Williams has not played since she retired from her first-round Wimbledon match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in June 2021, during which she sustained a leg injury.
“It’s not easy to tell someone you worked with for 10 years that you’re going to start something with someone else,” Mouratoglou adds. “It’s a 10-year relationship … where you share so many things and so many emotion and so many moments.”
‘I’m ready to give my best’
When Mouratoglou and Halep speak to CNN they’re prepping for Roland Garros, where the 30-year-old Romanian is scheduled to play against Croatia’s Ana Konjuh in the first round on Sunday.
“The French Open is my favorite grand slam,” she says. “I love the city. I feel great. I like the vibe. So everything gets together and I just feel great. It’s going to be a big challenge, this tournament, for me. I’m ready mentally. I’m ready to give my best.”
“I really thought I would be done by 30,” Halep says. “I was wrong.”
“I want to play few more years. I feel like I can,” she adds. “My body is okay. You know, I feel healthy. I feel that my energy level is high. So I don’t see any reason to stop now.”
However, there’s one player who could stand in the way of a third grand slam tittle for Halep.
“For the last month, Iga has shown a lot of stability physically, mentally and tennis wise. She’s super solid in everything. That’s why she’s been winning so much. But I think everybody is beatable,” Mouratoglou says.
And Mouratoglou is confident that Halep’s mental fortitude could rival Swiatek.
“She’s also a great player, but what makes her special is the fact that she’s extremely strong mentally,” he says. “I feel that also she believes in herself and the combination can do wonders.”