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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, September 13, 2024

Simona Halep is "shocked and disappointed" by her four-year doping suspension. 

Serena Williams sounds annoyed by the 31-year-old Romanian's status.

More: Djokovic Captures 24th Grand Slam Title

The 23-time Grand Slam champion posted a simple statement on social media: "8 is a better number", which many interpreted as Serena's commentary on her 2019 Wimbledon loss to Halep that cost her an eighth Rosewater Dish.

In the 2019 Wimbledon final, a red-hot Halep blazed by a frozen Williams, 6-2, 6-2, in a brilliant 55-minute thrashing to make history as the first Romanian to win Wimbledon. 

In the biggest match of her career, Halep played her best tennis transforming Centre Court into her own supreme comfort zone in what she called the finest hour of her life.

"I knew that I have to be aggressive, being 100 percent for every ball, that I don't have to let her come back to the match because she's so powerful and so strong," Halep said afterward. "She knows how to manage every moment. So I knew that I have to stay there, which I did pretty well today.

"I'm very sure that was the best match of my life. Also on grass against her is never easy. So I'm really proud of my game of today and the whole tournament."

Halep carried an ignominious 1-9 lifetime record vs. the 23-time Grand Slam champion onto court, but she played sublime tennis against a skittish Serena, denying Williams her quest to claim a 24th Grand Slam crown to match Margaret Court's all-time major record and tennis immortality.

Playing pristine tennis, Halep committed just three unforced errors—22 fewer than the seven-time champion
—in the 2019 final.

Now, Williams, and others, are questioning the integrity of some of the two-time Grand Slam champion's victories in the aftermath of Halep's doping ban.

Halep has been hit with a four-year suspension from tennis after being found guilty of two doping violations, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced yesterday.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Halep has been provisionally suspended since October 2022, which the tribunal credited against the ruling of ineligibility.

Halep's suspension will run from October 7, 2022 until October 6, 2026. 

In a statement, Halep said she is "shocked and disappointed" by the tribunal's decision and vows to appeal to The Court of Arbitration for Sport and "pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question."

"I have taken 200 blood and urine tests to check for prohibited substances – all of which have been clean, until August 29, 2022," Halep said. "Ahead of the hard court season in 2022, upon recommendation from my trusted team and physiotherapist, I adjusted my nutritional supplements.

"None of the listed ingredients included any prohibited substances however we now know – and the tribunal agreed – one of them was contaminated with roxadustat. I was tested almost weekly after my initial positive test through early 2023, all of which came back negative. Despite this evidence, the ITIA brought an ABP charge only after its expert group learned my identity, causing two out of three to suddenly change their opinion in favor of ITIA’s allegations."

Halep joins Maria Sharapova and Martina Hingis as one of three former world No. 1 champions, who faced Serena Williams in Grand Slam  finals, to serve suspension on a doping violation.

Hingis tested positive for cocaine and served a two-year ban before a triumphant comeback as a Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles champion. Sharapova tested positive for meldonium and was initially suspended for two years, later shortened to 15 months on appeal, and though the Russian returned to the pro circuit she never again reached the Grand Slam heights she attained before the ban.

Serena Williams has called out champions busted for doping in the past, including this 2020 interview.

The four-time Olympic gold-medal champion takes a subtle shot at Sharapova saying "When it turns out people are actually doing drugs then the truth comes out...and then they get caught and then they get banned for not long enough."

Photo credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport