For much of the last year, Simona Halep waved off retirement questions. Despite injuries and a marriage to longtime partner Toni Iuruc, the Romanian insisted she was as committed as she ever was to reclaiming her place atop the WTA rankings.

In a new interview with CNN, Halep admits that wasn’t always the case, saying she indeed felt close to hanging up her racquets last season.

“I had the biggest injury of my career, and I didn’t know how to manage it at the start,” she says in a profile with new coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who took on the two-time major champion as his full-time pupil earlier this spring after spending a decade alongside Serena Williams. “I was scared and had low confidence because I felt my body didn’t hold anymore.”

Halep had been playing her peak tennis at the start of 2020; fresh off scoring an emphatic Wimbledon victory over 23-time major champion Williams the previous summer, Halep began the new year by reaching the Australian Open semifinals and winning her 20th career title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent bubble life turned all of that upside down; a calf injury at last year's Internazionali BNL d'Italia ruled her out of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where she had been set to defend her title.

“I really suffered and I didn’t see any light outside of the tunnel.”


Halep has largely turned that around in 2022, winning a title in Melbourne and pushing new No. 1 Iga Swiatek in two close sets at the BNP Paribas Open. Since partnering with Mouratoglou, she stunned then-No. 2 Paula Badosa at the Mutua Madrid Open, a tournament she’s won twice.

“I think she’s come through a lot of extremely difficult moments in her career, and she’s found a way to end up No. 1 in the world and double Grand Slam champion, which shows how strong she is mentally,” says Mouratoglou. “I feel she believes in herself, and that combination can do wonders.”

Her coach’s assessment sends Halep into a fit of giggles.

“I need some of this confidence!” she explains.

Halep spent much of her career working with Darren Cahill, but the two split at the end of 2021 and the 2018 Roland Garros champion spent several weeks looking for a new team after firing Daniel Dobre and Adrian Marcu following the Australian Open.

“He brought that fire back super fast,” Halep says of Mouratoglou. “I didn’t expect that because I’m not very open to people, and it’s not easy for me to trust in somebody. When I trust, I can make changes.”

Though Mouratoglou admits Swiatek is the odds-on favorite to triumph on the terre battue, but asserts that at her best, Halep can beat anybody.

“I’m always excited to be back in Paris and to the French Open,” echoes Halep. “It’s my favorite Grand Slam and being that it was the first one I won made it very special. I’m ready, mentally, to give my best. It’s the only thing I can do in this moment. I just need to start believing more and more and see how good I can be at this tournament.”

Halep will play her first round on Tuesday against lucky loser Nastasja Schunk.