How Serena Williams’ former coach brought Simona Halep back from the brink of tennis retirement
Serena Williams was a tennis professional who would never retire. She had already won five Wimbledon titles, five U.S. Open championships and was heading into her seventh season ranked No. 1 in the world.
Then she stopped.
Simona Halep in action at the World Team Squash Championships in Hong Kong. Simona Halep/Getty Images
In January 2010, after reaching the final of the Australian Open by defeating her compatriot, Maria Sharapova, Williams announced she was retiring from professional tennis to concentrate on her full-time pro career.
“By the time I retire my career will be over,” she stated.
More like five or six months later, she stopped playing again.
Halep, who won a spot on the main draw as a wild card at the 2010 U.S. Open, was ranked only No. 7 in the world at the time and had not won any high-profile matches.
“I was a bit devastated,” she says, recalling how she felt.
One month later, the former top-ranked player found a familiar face – James Blake, an American whose career was short-lived.
“I started playing with him and started winning a couple of matches so I got a bit of a push, and he got me a spot in the main draw,” she says.
It was at that moment, when she was already ranked No. 7, that the 30-year-old Halep began a long, winding path towards redemption – and back to the top.
Halep has been ranked in the top 10 of the WTA rankings since 2013, and has become a top contender against the former No. 1. In the biggest match of her career so far this season, Halep beat Williams in a Grand Slam semifinal in New York before losing to a resurgent Serena in the final in Wimbledon.
After being told that she was banned from competing in the U.S. Open due to doping allegations, and then suspended after admitting to taking drugs, the former world No.