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Miami Open: Halep loses to Badosa on return from doping ban


Two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep of Romania fell short on her return to competition after her doping ban was lifted against Spain's Paula Badosa 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 at the Miami Open on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban from four years to nine months. She was provisionally suspended since September 2022 after testing positive for the use of roxadustat at the 2022 U.S. Open where she played her last match and suffered a first-round exit.

The 2018 French Open champion is regaining her form as she aims for the clay court Grand Slam due to take place in two months.

"It felt really good," said Halep. "I had emotions, positive emotions to see the crowd supporting me was so nice and gave me a lot of energy and the level of tennis was pretty good, unexpected I think, for most of the people.

"It is a special day."

File photo of Simona Halep. /CFP
File photo of Simona Halep. /CFP

File photo of Simona Halep. /CFP

The 32-year-old spark plug showed she can still make all the shots and had lost none of her trademark terrier-like determination running down ball after ball. But 18 months away from competition was always going to exact a toll.

In the second set, it was Badosa taking the initiative as Halep began to show the first signs of fatigue and needed her shoulder massaged at a changeover while the Spaniard held steady to level the match.

The third set turned into a dog fight with Badosa again getting the early break to go ahead 2-1 only to have a battling Halep immediately break back.

Badosa would continue to apply pressure and break Halep a second time, the effort leaving the exhausted Romanian slumped over her racket at the baseline.

With little in reserve, Halep's resistance crumbled and Badosa moved in for the kill finishing off her opponent with another break.

"I didn't like it at all," said Badosa about getting Halep in the first round. "I'm going to be honest. Even if Simona is 10 years without competing, she's still Simona."

(With input from Reuters)

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