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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep share the rare experience of reaching world No. 1.

The pair part dramatically on their wild card views.

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In the aftermath of her 6-4, 6-1 win over Clara Burel in Miami today, Wozniacki was asked her reaction to Halep's Miami Open comeback from a doping suspension.

Halep successfully appealed her four-year doping ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, winning a reduced sentence of four months that enabled her to return to tennis in Miami.

Wozniacki says she opposes awarding wild cards to players who have served doping suspensions and believes Halep should "work your way up from the bottom."

"Well, first of all, I've always liked Simona. We've always had a good relationship," Wozniacki told the media in Miami. "I think my view on doping is the same. I have always wanted a clean sport, fair for everybody. I think it's definitely still my opinion.

"Again, this is not directly at Simona, but if someone purposely cheats, if someone has tested positive for doping... I understand why a tournament wants a big star in the tournament, but it's my personal belief, and it's not a knock on anyone, but it's my personal belief that I don't think people should be awarded wild cards afterwards."

The 32-year-old Halep followed Wozniacki on Grandstand Court and won the first set before bowing to former No. 2 Paula Badosa 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Informed of Wozniacki's comments, Halep replied: "I'm not a cheater" adding "only one person being negative about me is not that important."

"But why? I didn't do anything wrong," Halep said when told of Wozniacki's comments. "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 wild card 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."

The two-time Grand Slam champion Halep tested positive for the banned drug Roxadustat at the 2022 US Open. Roxadustat is legitimately used for the treatment of anaemia but is on the WADA Prohibited Substance list as a blood doping agent, which increases hemoglobin and the production of red blood cells. It has been used by middle distance and long-distance runners in the past.

Last month, Halep won her doping appeal as the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced her suspension from four years to nine months clearing the path for her return to the pro circuit this week in Miami.

Halep asserts she has never knowingly doped and attributes her positive test to a contaminated supplement. Halep says three "world-renowned experts" have concluded her positive test for Roxadustat was a result of a contaminated supplement. Last month, Halep filed a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages from the Canadian company she claims produced the contaminated supplement that caused her to fail the drug test and derailed her career.

However, the Quantum Nutrition founder told Canadian publication The Globe and Mail last October that the supplement was not the cause of the Romanian's positive test. He says Halep is trying to scapegoat his company as “the fall guy” for her doping suspension.

Former Australian Open champion Wozniacki, who spoke out against tournaments awarding wild cards to Maria Sharapova when she returned from her doping suspension for the banned substance meldonium, said her position is not personal.

Wozniacki says "all I want is a fair fight."

"If you want to come back, and it's been a mistake, I understand, you should work your way up from the bottom. That's my personal opinion upon things," Wozniacki said. "Simona's situation has obviously dragged on for a long time. She got her suspension reduced. It wasn't a clearance, it was a reduced sentence. She's now been off of the game for a while and she's coming back.

"Again, I just hope for a clean sport. That's all I want. I want to have good role models for the young generation. It's a sport that has a lot of money in it, a lot of competitiveness, a lot of competitors. I want a fair fight. I've always been a very honest athlete and always looked at everything that I've taken."

Reflecting on her lowest point of her suspension, Halep said she always believed the truth would prevail and she would play again. 

"My parents always taught [me] that good always prevails," Halep said. "I trust it 100% from the first day until the last day that the truth will come out and the decision will be taken in a fair way.

"I knew I'm clean. I knew I didn't do anything wrong. I believed that it's impossible to stay four years for something that doesn't exist."

Photo credit: Matthew Calvis