Simona Halep gets candid on trauma that lengthy doping ban process left on her

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Halep battled for a year and a half to clear her name before finally succeeding.

Simona Halep gets candid on trauma that lengthy doping ban process left on her

Simona Halep may have won her doping ban appeal case and returned to tennis but admits that behind her everything that happened definitely won’t be something easy.

After being provisionally suspended in 2022 October over the allegations that banned substance Roxadustat was found in her system, Halep spent the next year and a half trying to prove her innocence. Last May, it got even tougher for Halep when the ITIA announced that she was being hit with a second anti-doping violation over “irregularities in her athlete biological passport.”

In September, Halep received a four-year doping ban, which meant she would not be allowed to return to tennis until 2026 October. But Halep appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – and after being heard between February 07-09 – it was announced on March 5th that her appeal case was successful and that her ban was cut from four years to nine months.

Two weeks after being cleared to immediately return to tennis, Halep played at the Miami Open – that was her first tournament since the 2022 US Open.

Halep, now 32, felt a major relief after winning her appeal case but she lost a year and a half of competing – her reputation got tarnished – and she dealt with a lot of stress and her mental health was very negatively impacted during that period.

“What I went through is not easy. So I cannot forget, like this, just because I got cleared,” Halep told The Associated Press.

“There is baggage that probably will stay longer, and I cannot forget, like, one day (to the next) what happened. So I have to handle it better. I have to control my emotions coming back. So there is a (lot) that is not easy. But the joy, I hope, will help me.”

Halep on feeling nervous in Miami because she had some concerns

Two days after Halep was cleared to play again, Miami Open tournament director James Blake awarded the two-time Grand Slam champion a main draw wildcard into the tournament that was starting on March 19th.

When Halep learned about the wildcard, she was happy and grateful but then she started thinking how she would be accepted by players and other Tour members upon her return from her doping ban.

But shortly after arriving in Miami and seeing fans coming to watch her practice and also seeing a big crowd showing up to her first match back against Paula Badosa, Halep knew that players and fans were happy to see her back on the Tour.

“I felt like I don’t know what to expect from people (in Miami). How it’s going to be — to be in the locker room again. Players’ dining (area). All this routine that I didn’t do for almost two years, it looked new for me,” Halep said.

“And when I arrived on-site, the love that I received from the people that are working for the tournament, the security, and all the people around, and also the players, helped me to just forget everything. And it felt like I never (was) away.

“So it was a great feeling, a great energy, and I was really happy deep down that I am, again, part of tennis and part of this sport that I love. So for me, it was a great experience, much better than I expected. And this made me feel that, ‘OK, now I want to go back and do my best and see how good I can be, still.'”

Halep continues her comeback in Oeiras next week

After losing to Badosa in three sets in the Miami first round, Halep returned home and started preparing for the clay season. This week, it was announced that former world No. 1 Halep accepted a main draw wildcard into next week’s WTA 125 tournament in Oeiras. On the WTA Tour, the WTA 125 tournaments are equivalent to the Challenger tournaments on the ATP Tour.

Seeing a Grand Slam champion competing in a WTA 125 tournament is not really something that can be seen every day as there is no doubt that Halep’s participation in Oeiras will draw major attention and interest.

“I’m very excited to add a new tournament to my calendar,” Halep said in a statement after being confirmed for Oeiras.

“On my return to the WTA circuit I intend to play as many matches as possible and accepting this wildcard gives me the opportunity to do so in front of the Portuguese public. I want to thank the tournament for having me and I can’t wait to be there.”

It remains to be seen how far can Halep go in Oeiras in her first clay tournament of the season.

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