Simona Halep, source:

Simona Halep first picked up a racquet when she was four years old. At fourteen, she decided to dedicate her life to tennis. At sixteen, she left her family, in the small, ancient city of Constanta, Romania, and moved into a hotel in the capital, Bucharest, in order to train at a serious academy, the New Yorker Magazine reported. 

Her father jokingly called her his “little Rolex,” because, at a young age, she told him that she would win the big tournaments. At seventeen, she had breast-reduction surgery—a frightening procedure, which lasted nearly seven hours—in order to relieve pain in her back and help her game.

As a child, Halep was so shy that it was painful for her even to speak on the phone, but she forced herself to face the cameras and the scrutiny of the media, which grew more intense with each season. Every day, she went to the gym to tend to her muscles, joints, and ligaments. When her friends went to parties, she went to sleep.

Halep is small for a tennis player—she’s only five feet six—and she lacked a big serve and blistering shots. The larger problem was that she would sometimes fall apart. She went nearly a year, from May of 2012 to March of 2013, without winning two matches in a row. The Times once described one of her matches as “mesmerizing, like any passing calamity.”

As for her sudden success, there were the usual factors: good health, a new coach, a more aggressive mentality. She said that she had become more relaxed, and was enjoying the game. She had a newfound belief in her ability to challenge the top players. Whatever it was, it looked like an awakening. Her eyes, wide-set and hazel, radiated a rare intensity.

Source: New Yorker