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On March 5, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced Simona Halep’s doping ban from four years to nine months. Two weeks later, the two-time Grand Slam champion returned to action on the WTA Tour, losing in the first round of the Miami Open to Paula Badosa in three sets. That was the first match Halep played since the 2022 US Open.

Today, at a WTA 125 tournament in Paris, Halep resumes her comeback—something she spoke about candidly with Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim in April. Their sit-down conversation from Bucharest is an exclusive, in-depth, no-holds-barred look at the 32-year-old's state of mind before, during and after her suspension. It also includes her thoughts on what's next, both for her, and for the anti-doping system currently in place.

Here are five big takeaways that emerged from the interview, which you can watch in full at the top of this page. (Note: Some quotes are from portions of the interview not included in the video cut.)

Simona Halep sits down with Tennis Channel's Jon Wertheim for an exclusive interview from Bucharest, Romania.

Simona Halep sits down with Tennis Channel's Jon Wertheim for an exclusive interview from Bucharest, Romania.

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1. Halep believes she has now won three majors

Halep’s first Grand Slam singles title came at Roland Garros in 2018. A year later, she played the match of her life, beating Serena Williams to win Wimbledon. Those to date are her two biggest victories. But as she spoke with Wertheim, Halep offered a different view:

Halep: “I would keep [the] three biggest titles in my life.”

Wertheim: “Three biggest titles?”

Halep: “Exactly.”

Wertheim: “Two majors and – ”

Halep: “And the CAS.”

Wertheim: “And a successful appeal.”

Halep: “Exactly.”

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2. She bears no ill will towards her coach who might have had a role in her suspension

Last November, in an Instagram video, Halep’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said he felt responsible for providing her with the allegedly contaminated collagen supplement that she believed triggered the positive test result. But while it would be easy for Halep to assign blame to Mouratoglou, she has declined to take that step.

Halep: “Definitely was not an intentional mistake or how should I say? That he wanted to make something wrong to me. No. And I heard many voices [say] that I was manipulated by him. That’s not true. He was my coach and I always trusted the people I work with . . . So I really believe that if you don't trust in your team, you cannot perform at your maximum level. So I trusted, I work with his academy with his people and everything was fine.

“So it was nothing that he offered me to take something or to give me something. No, everything was clear about doping, so it's nothing that he did it in purpose, nothing.”

Despite the scoreboard reading 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 in favor of Paula Badosa, for Halep, this moment "will always feel like a victory."

Despite the scoreboard reading 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 in favor of Paula Badosa, for Halep, this moment "will always feel like a victory."

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3. Returning to tennis was joyful

Certainly, Halep has always played with passion. But there have been times when that intensity has boiled over into anger aimed at herself. Hearing her recent comments, one wonders if much of that will dissipate amid her sheer joy for the chance to play tennis yet again.

Halep: “I felt so much love in Miami. When I was traveling with my mum, I told her that I'm very nervous how it's going to be, how people will react. But it was amazing. Also the security people, the people that are working for the tournament, the players, the coaches, all, they received me with a lot of love and appreciation. It was great to be back and I felt relieved. I felt the freedom again to be able to go to the tournament and to be able to play, practice, the same routine, locker room. So it was a great experience and I'm really thankful that people welcomed me so beautiful.”

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Tennis Channel+ has arrived

Roland Garros like you've never streamed it before—and so much love.

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4. A tennis legend offered meaningful support

Beyond occasional brief television interviews, Halep scarcely knew tennis legend Chrissie Evert. But amid Halep’s troubles, she came to highly value Evert’s public comments.

Halep: “Yes, a very special lady, Chris Evert. She was messaging me so much and also publicly she was supporting me. Before CAS, she sent me a message, after, she sent me a message. She's a wonderful lady and of course, I want to thank her because she knows how to support someone that is in trouble, and that means a lot about a person.”

The schedule was like an army, I would say. Simona Halep

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5. For the first time since early childhood, Halep focused on fun—and that’s helped alter her mindset

Halep: “I was focusing more on my person than [as] an athlete. So I was taking care of my body, I was taking care of my mental, I transformed everything into a personal lifestyle. . . I just enjoyed life day by day, that I never had the chance to live normal in this 25 years because I was always, in the schedule, always strict, always something to do. The schedule was like an army, I would say. And now it was like I could go by the pool, I could go to a hair salon, I could go to do all this stuff that a person, normal person can do it. So I enjoyed it.”

Halep: “I'm very smiley these days and I feel, as I said, relieved. I feel the freedom that I probably, I didn't realize this feeling before what happened. I was always intention. I was always focusing to be the best and to how to do the best things to be great in tennis. Now I see different. I'm older, of course, I have some titles behind, so I have experience and now I see more the pleasure for tennis. Of course it's going to be tough to get the rhythm back, but I enjoy more, which is I think the best thing right now for me.”