Tennis-Wozniacki not feeling the love as Halep returns from doping ban

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 8:47 PM

By Steve Keating

MIAMI (Reuters) – Fans gave Simona Halep a warm welcome back to tennis at the Miami Open on Tuesday in her first match back from a doping suspension but the Romanian received a frostier reception from former world number one Caroline Wozniacki.

There were plenty of cheers and chants of “Si-Mon-ah. Si-Mon-Ah” from excited flag-waving fans during the wildcard’s 1-6 6-4 6-3 loss to Spain’s Paula Badosa, who also complimented the twice Grand Slam champion after the match.

But Halep’s return on a wildcard did not sit well with Wozniacki.

“I’ve been very outspoken in the past how I feel about doping and all of that,” said Wozniacki, adding that she likes Halep. “I have always wanted a clean sport, fair for everybody. I think it’s definitely still my opinion.

“This is not directly at Simona, but if someone purposely cheats, if someone has tested positive for doping it’s my personal belief that I don’t think people should be awarded wildcards afterwards.

“If you want to come back, and it’s been a mistake, I understand, you should work your way up from the bottom.”

Halep accepted a wildcard into the Miami Open after her four-year ban was cut to nine months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Former Wimbledon and French Open champion Halep was suspended in October 2022 after testing positive for roxadustat – a banned drug that stimulates the production of red blood cells – at that year’s U.S. Open.

Halep vigorously denied the charges against her and was again defending herself on Tuesday against Wozniacki’s comments.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Halep. “I didn’t cheat. I didn’t dope.

“So it’s better if we read the decision from CAS that it was a contaminated supplement, it wasn’t doping.

“I never had something to do with doping. I never doped, so I’m not a cheater.

“Thank you to the tournament for giving me the wildcard and have the possibility to play in such a big tournament. It was great to be back.

“Only one person being negative about me is not that important because I have hundreds of people that giving me love, so I will take that.”

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Miami; Editing by Peter Rutherford)