Toca, 36, was born four years after Virginia Ruzici won the women’s French Open title in 1978, which was the country’s last Grand Slam singles triumph before Saturday. Her title capped what had been a golden generation of Romanian talents, led by the two-time Grand Slam champion Ilie Nastase.
“In Romania, the achievement is enormous,” Ruzici said of Halep’s win.
Romanian tennis has endured several years of less-positive news, especially regarding Nastase. Last year, he was thrown out of a Fed Cup competition in which he was serving as captain for Romania, and was later punished for racist and sexist comments he made there.
Two days before this year’s French Open began, Nastase was arrested twice in a six-hour span, first on charges of drunken driving, and then on charges of running a red light on a scooter.
Ion Tiriac, who alongside Nastase helped lead Romania to Davis Cup glory in the 1970s, has used his business acumen to support Halep’s career. He said that his generation of players would be heartened to finally have a successor.
“Romanian players deserve that,” Tiriac said. “We have, for good or for bad, a history in our country. From time to time jumps a talent like Simona.”
Romania has five other women ranked in the top 70, but the country’s contingent in men’s tennis is considerably more meager, with only one man ranked inside the top 400.