SINGAPORE - It is considered an unlucky number in popular culture but to Simona Halep, 13 is a lucky number because "everything (goes well) for me when it's about 13".
The Romanian seems to be right - 2013 was the year she won her first six titles on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) circuit, and she is also the 13th player to receive the WTA Year-End No. 1 trophy since the inception of computer rankings in 1975.
Halep is the first from her country to end the year as the top-ranked female tennis player.
Her position as the year-end No. 1 was sealed after Czech Karolina Pliskova lost in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global on Saturday (Oct 28).
Pliskova had needed to win the US$7 million (S$9.55 million) season-ending tournament to overtake Halep.
At the trophy presentation ceremony on Sunday (Oct 29) at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Halep also received a Tiffany & Co. ring.
The 26-year-old had two words to describe her journey to the top - "difficult" and "amazing" - as she recalled her two toughest moments of the year: being sidelined for three months at the beginning of the year due to injury, and losing the French Open final to Jelena Ostapenko in June.
Halep had also on four occasions this year been one win away from becoming No. 1 and on her fourth try in Beijing this month, defeated Ostapenko to reach the top for the first time.
Said Halep, who won one title and reached four other finals this year: "I had many ups and downs ... every week I went back on court, working.
"I'm really happy that I could stay consistent, which I think is the best thing for a player. And also I'm fit, I have no injuries now. So I'm just trying to make the off-season better and to start the next year better."
Halep, who did not reach the last four of the WTA Finals Singapore, is aware of the challenges that await in her quest for a maiden Grand Slam title next year.
But she added: "I cannot be stressed about that. I just want to work harder to get better, because I need to do that and we will see what is going to happen.
"In my opinion, it's great what I have done until now, so I just want to make it there more, and (win) a Grand Slam."