Simona Halep reveals the key role that people's love had for her comeback

After almost two years of disqualification, the Romanian is back on the court for her 'second' tennis life

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Simona Halep reveals the key role that people's love had for her comeback
© Megan Briggs / Stringer Getty Images Sport

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, the Romanian champion Simona Halep talked about her feelings upon returning to the court after the controversial doping ban.

The two-time Slam winner, who lived a year and a half of nightmare before the happy ending in March, revealed how the love of the people and the crowds gave her great strength.

"I was very nervous when I returned to the court. I wasn't sure what the reception would be like, both on and off the court. I didn't know what to expect from the people in Miami. Being back in the locker room and the players' area. All this routine that I hadn't done for almost two years felt new to me," she told.

Halep also revealed how the support of her teammates was key.

"When I arrived, the love I received from the people who work for the tournament, the security and everyone around me, as well as the players, helped me forget everything. I felt like I had never been away. It was a great feeling, a great energy, and deep down I was very happy to be part of tennis again and this sport that I love so much. For me it was a great experience, much better than I expected," she said.

Simona Halep
Simona Halep© Megan Briggs / Stringer Getty Images Sport
 

The last few months have been very difficult for the two-time Slam champion, who has strenuously defended herself against doping accusations. The CAS ruling confirmed Simona's thesis, who protested her innocence for all the very long 18 months in which she was out of WTA competitions.

"All of this made me feel like I wanted to get back to my best and see how good I can still be. It's been a tough time. It was hard to control, but now it's a different story. And I feel relief, I feel freedom. So yes, I'm back to work. I'm 32, I'm not that young anymore.

What I went through is not easy. So I can't forget it. There is baggage that will probably remain longer, and I cannot forget, as if in one night, what happened. So I have to handle it better. I have to control my emotions. So there are a lot of things that are not easy. But joy will hopefully help me," she explained.

Coming back to the court after a long absence is always a great emotion for an athlete. Simona remained away from the fields due to a doping ban imposed on her in September 2022.

After the latest sentence, which reduced her disqualification from 4 years to 9 months, the former WTA No.1 was able to return to experiencing the emotions of the court, facing Paula Badosa in the first round of the Master 1000 in Miami.

Simona Halep
Simona Halep© Brennan Asplen / Stringer Getty Images Sport
 

Simona's struggle to ascertain her innocence

A few weeks ago, in several interviews, Halep talked in depth about the doping ban and the feelings that this period generated in her. In an interview with Treizecizero, the Romanian highlighted some particular background information on the doping accusation that emerged during the trial.

"It was so shocking when this story came out, I didn't even realize it. The document appears and I look at the Romanian flag on the screen: it was a shock to discover that the sample was from Bucharest, when I was 10 minutes away from laboratory, and was therefore tested without taking into account the conservation rules.

About two hours had passed and my blood was at the wrong temperature. But even in that state it was within normal values and did not indicate any trace of doping. The court was surprised, especially since we were in the same city just minutes from the laboratory.

Negligence and my bad luck. Negligence on the part of the team, because they didn't check as they should have. But it is also an accident. I'm no expert on this kind of thing but when this product is made, when it's blended, there may have been something left on the blender beforehand.

This is how contamination can occur. Lawyers and experts also explained it to me. So I don't think so and I'm convinced that they didn't do it with bad intentions. It was a simple mistake and that was it," she remarked.

Simona Halep
Simona Halep© Megan Briggs / Stringer Getty Images Sport
 

Through a long post published on her social accounts, Halep expressed her joy at the CAS verdict and sent a clear message.

"Today marks a crucial moment, as the court issued its verdict clarifying my position and this chapter. In a unanimous decision, the CAS acquitted me of any wrongdoing relating to the doping allegations. It was also unanimously ruled that the unfortunate incident of the positive Roxadustat test was due to inadvertent contamination, resulting in a reduction of the disqualification to nine months. Furthermore, the court ordered ITIA to compensate me with 20,000 Swiss francs.

In the midst of this challenging journey, my unshakable belief in the truth and integrity of the principles of justice has been my beacon. Despite the disheartening accusations and formidable opposition, my spirit remained optimistic, anchored in my unshakable belief that I was a clean athlete. This ordeal has been a testament to resilience, and the triumph of truth represents a bittersweet vindication that, while late, is immensely rewarding.

I extend my sincere gratitude to my legal team, whose unwavering faith and exceptional dedication have been instrumental in navigating this complicated time. Likewise, my sponsors, my loyal fans and some wonderful colleagues have been my pillars of strength, offering support and solidarity.

The extraordinary support of so many Romanians has strengthened my determination, allowing me to support this cause to a just and honorable conclusion. Looking ahead, I look forward to turning this page and joining the Tour with a renewed spirit and vigor," she wrote.

In another post, Simona wrote: "My faith in the system has been tested by the scandalous allegations that have been made against me and the seemingly unlimited resources that have been marshalled against me. I can't wait to get back to around the Tour."

Simona Halep
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