How Serena Williams’ former coach brought Simona Halep back from the brink of tennis retirement
(Photo: David Levenson/Icon Sportswire)
A day after Serena Williams announced her retirement from the world No. 1 ranking, her former coach was at the hospital bedside of one of the top 100 women in the world, watching that same woman make a second attempt at a Grand Slam title.
The moment was on Monday morning, when Simona Halep was playing a practice round of her first tournament following her retirement from the French Open a few weeks prior. In a first-round match against Johanna Larsson in Rome, Halep came roaring back from a set down, winning 6-0, 6-3.
“That day, she was playing well, but I told her before she came out: ‘You have another chance today, baby,'” said James Blake, who coaches Halep, during a phone conversation.
“When she came out after the match, she was ready for a second attempt. What happened today was, Serena looked like her old self,” Blake told Yahoo Sports. “She was like, ‘We never played here before. It is a new day.'”
At the 2018 French Open, Serena and Halep defeated the world No. 1, Naomi Osaka, to claim their first Grand Slam title together. There was a lot of excitement around the couple right until the end, when Halep was eliminated by Osaka in the third round to end the dream of capturing a Grand Slam championship together.
But even though Halep hasn’t won a Grand Slam singles title since she was 14 and 17 year-old, her presence and support have given her the motivation to keep pushing to the tennis sky.
Halep’s comeback from the brink of a tennis retirement comes shortly after her former coach brought back Simona to finish the French Open where she started her career.
“We were very close, because they are two women who were going to have careers,” Blake explained.