The hearings for Simona Halep's appeal trial at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne have begun today and will last until Friday. Halep, who's backed up by an elite team of lawyers, hopes to reduce her initial 4-year suspension given by the Sports Resolutions tribunal in London.
Euronews reporter Razvan Nicolescu, who shared the same flight to Geneva as Simona Halep, remarked that the former Wimbledon champion was smiling and joking with her brother, which may be a sign that she's confident. Yet, Halep's internal feelings may be completely different.
Halep recently let people know that she feels emotional pain every day because she is certain she's innocent. "It never crossed my mind to do something like that (e.n., doping) in my life," said Halep. "I struggled with the emotional aspect because it weighed heavily on my shoulders.
The debate on the topic has had a huge impact on my mental health." Nevertheless, Simona acknowledged the relentless support coming from her fans during the "hardest time" of her life. According to the Romanian, she has received thousands of positive messages coming from fans and tennis legends.
For example, Chris Evert was one of the WTA personalities who stood up for Halep. "For my part, I believe she is innocent. Yes, she had roxadustat in her system, but she gave her whole life to her coach and her team, who monitored her career, its nutrition and its management.
I believe she is innocent," wrote the American legend. The decision of the CAS is, however, set to come months from now.
Halep is defended by Sharapova's former lawyer
Simona Halep enjoys the support of a top-notch team of legal experts, among which the highlight is Howard Jacobs, who defended the likes of Maria Sharapova and Marin Cilic in the past.
Sharapova managed to reduce her suspension for using meldonium from two years to 15 months after the same court that now judges Halep's case concluded that Maria couldn't be considered an "intentional doper." Another lawyer found in Halep's team is Jeffrey Benz, who is also a CAS referee.
Therefore, Benz knows how things work in Lausanne and he may just be what Halep needs to gain the upper edge.
Simona Halep's road to redemption
At the 2022 US Open, Simona Halep played her last professional tennis match before her suspension.
About a year later, the Sports Resolutions tribunal in London found her guilty of using roxadustat.
The London court's decision was a career-shattering 4-year ban.
Now, Halep hopes for a favorable decision from CAS.
If the initial decision won't be amended, Halep is going to be able to come back only in October 2026. "There is very little chance that I will be able to participate, but I will do everything to make this happen. Whatever happens, I will be there.
Worst case scenario, as a spectator, because it will be magical," Halep said recently in an interview with Paris Match. "I love Paris. It is a city where, beyond my sporting successes, I feel at home. If the sanction is confirmed, I cannot know what will happen in the next three years and how my body will evolve.
My dream is to return, at any age. One thing is certain: I want to choose how to end my career and I don't want to end it anywhere other than on the court. I think I deserve it after all the work I've done over the years." Read more: Simona Halep opens up on experiencing anxiety attacks after doping suspension.
Until her official comeback, however, Halep will play an exhibition match on 15th June, 2024.
She will pair former Romanian ATP great Andrei Pavel in a doubles match against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. "I experienced special moments in Cluj, on that wonderful field set up as part of Sports Festival. I can't wait to go back and play there with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf," said Halep in a recent Sports Festival press release.