Simona Halep: ‘I felt like it was my first time playing a match’

Simona Halep had a winning return to the court in Adelaide today but revealed she was so nervous it felt like her first time playing.

The World number two was one of eight players selected to play in the Australian Open curtain raiser in front of a big crowd.

In a competitive third set tie-break, Halep beat her opponent Ashleigh Barty, who despite not playing competitive tennis for a year, is still World number one due to the protected ranking system brought in through the COVID pandemic.

It was clear that both players enjoyed their return to court in front of an excited crowd with lots of camaraderie and laughs shared over the net.

“It’s wonderful to be back here in Adelaide, I’ve been here two times already and it always is a pleasure to come back.” Halep told the on-court interviewer after the match.

“I needed a little bit of oxygen today, after two weeks in quarantine, so its not easy and Ash doesn’t look like she didn’t play last year so well done.

“Its going to be a great fight always when I play against her.

“The city is nice, the people are nice, and I really missed you guys playing in front of you is always a pleasure.

“Actually I was very nervous. I felt like it was my first time playing a match.”

The Romanian then drew a mixed reaction from the crowd when she revealed supporting one of the local football teams.

The interviewer asked about her close relationship to coach Darren Cahill, who is from Adelaide and asked her if that made a difference.

“I feel local a little bit,” Halep replied.

“He (Cahill) gave me advice from here and I support the football team, should I say?”

When the interviewer said she may support a different team to him Halep replied “I am confident, I support Port Adelaide” to a mix of cheers and boo’s from the exuberant crowd.

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