No. 3: 8 is a better number.

Did she or didn't she? Five little words, in one post on X, got the tennis world buzzing in September.

After she tested positive for the banned substance roxadustat after the 2022 US Open, Simona Halep's doping saga was omnipresent in the background of the 2023 tennis season. In May, she was hit with a second violation, in regards to apparent irregularities in her athlete biological passport, and in September, the Romanian was handed down a four-year ban from tennis as a result of the two strikes against her.

While Halep has maintained her innocence, claiming that she took a contaminated supplement, opinion on the case remains divided. But, at least as it seemed, not as far as Serena Williams is concerned. After the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) released its decision on Halep, the 24-time Grand Slam singles champion logged on to give what many considered to be a veiled reference to Halep's plight.

"8 is a better number," she posted.

For those of you who might need a refresher on the math: Williams was seeking her eighth career Wimbledon singles title when she lost to Halep 6-2, 6-2 on Centre Court in the 2019 final.


It wasn't the first time that Tennis Twitter (can we still call it that?) opted to read deep between the lines of one of Williams' social media posts. (Remember the cryptic "I made you," that many believed was a reference to Sloane Stephens, including Stephens herself?)

But a further layer to this alleged call-out comes from the fact that Halep was coached by Patrick Mouratgolou at the time of her positive test, who famously coached Williams for a decade from 2012-22. The French coach has staunchly defended Halep, and in November, said he feels a personal responsibility for her initial positive test because the staff at his academy reccomended the aforementioned supplement to her.

Did Serena shade Simona? We may never know.

Did Serena shade Simona? We may never know.


While Williams opted for a nebulous initial comment, her husband, Alexis Ohanian, took a more direct approach by posting a photo from the 2019 US Open, where he famously wore a D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) T-shirt when Williams beat Maria Sharapova—who had served her own doping ban by that point.

"Some fashion is timeless," he wrote to accompany it.

But no inference was needed for Williams' reply to him.

“Seriously not out of style," she wrote.