Sometimes you're just stopped in your tracks, or in your thoughts, at the sheer self-belief that tennis pros have.

Consider the case of one Sorana Cirstea, who won her first WTA-level title at age 18, and last week, her second—at age 31.

In simple math, the Bucharest-born slugger went 12 years and 6 months between seizing those titles. That makes her notching of the 2021 WTA title in Istanbul the third-longest "wilderness" run of all time, behind those of Mirjana Luciuc-Baroni (16 years, 4 months) and Kimiko Date (13 years, 1 month).

The far more complicated math has played out in hundreds of practice sessions and match settings, and certainly between her ears. Over those 46 months, she went without winning hardware, and likewise without claiming the psychological software that helps one manufacture the belief to keep putting in the work.


As a teen in Tashkent, Cirstea took her first-ever title. Two weeks after turning 31 in early April, she bested the perpetually improving Elise Mertens in Istanbul, 6-1, 7-6 (3), and even said she surprised herself by clinching that championship match.

Perhaps she shouldn't have been so taken aback by her performance. She came into the match 2-0 against Mertens, and she hadn't dropped a set yet that week—so why start in the finale?

In the nearly decade-and-a-half between her singles splendor, Cirstea had found herself a finalist twice—again in Tashkent (2019), and in Toronto (2013). In the meantime, between 2008 and 2019, she won five doubles titles.

Speaking to the doubles prowess, that's the batch of championship victories that keeps one's vigor going for the solitary stuff.

If Cirstea's pro tennis career somehow proves to be bookended by these titles, so be it. And if she finds herself making a run at this year's Roland Garros, so be it.

She already showed, two months ago in Australia, that she still has the goods: After an abysmal 6-1 second-set loss to No. 9 seed and former Aussie Opem finalist Petra Kvitova, she roared back to take the final set by a 6-1 count as well, securing a topsy-turvy upset.

I first took note of Cirstea's game at the 2012 Australian Open, when she upended home-country hope Samantha Stosur's campaign in the first round. Verbally, and stroke-wise, she put an emphatic full stop on a solid, 18-stroke rally:


You can find that point, and that forehand that would make her idol Stefanie Graf proud, below. And you can find yourself rooting for Cirstea in Paris late this month.