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Halep returns from overturned doping ban with loss in Miami

Updated: 2024-03-20 09:41
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Simona Halep from Romania serves against Paula Badosa of Spain on day two of the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, USA March 19, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep returned to professional tennis after getting her doping suspension reduced on appeal, playing her first match in about 1 1/2 years on Tuesday — a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 loss to Paula Badosa at the Miami Open.

Halep looked terrific in the first set, then encountered trouble later, including having a trainer massage her right shoulder during a changeover late in the second. She was broken at love in the final game, each point ending with an errant groundstroke: backhand wide, backhand into the net, backhand long, forehand wide.

The 32-year-old from Romania, who reached No. 1 in the WTA rankings in 2017, smiled briefly and waved to spectators as she walked off the court Tuesday evening. The score might not have been what she wanted, but she was back competing.

Halep had not played on tour since testing positive for the banned drug Roxadustat at the 2022 U.S. Open, where she lost in the first round to Daria Snigur of Ukraine 6-2, 0-6, 6-4.

A four-year ban that was handed down in 2023 was cut to nine months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport two weeks ago. Two days later, the Miami Open gave Halep a wild-card invitation that allowed her to enter the tournament's field.

Halep argued that she was exposed to a contaminated supplement that caused her failed test.

She won major championships at Wimbledon in 2019, beating Serena Williams in the final, and at the French Open in 2018, beating Sloane Stephens in the final.

Badosa, who has been ranked as high as No. 2 but dealt with back problems lately, advanced to a second-round matchup with two-time Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, the current No. 2. That match is scheduled for Thursday.

The man Sabalenka has been dating, retired hockey player Konstantin Koltsov, 42, was found dead of an apparent suicide shortly after midnight Monday, Miami police said. They said foul play was not suspected.

A spokesperson for the Miami Open said Tuesday that Sabalenka was still entered in the tournament.


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