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Simona Halep hits back at Caroline Wozniacki after wild card criticism: 'I didn't cheat'

Simona Halep has hit back at Caroline Wozniacki after the Dane said she should not have been given a wild card for the Miami Open.

Halep made a quick return to top-level action after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced her doping ban from four years to nine months two weeks ago.

The two-time former grand-slam champion tested positive for the blood-boosting drug Roxadustat at the US Open in 2022 and was handed the long suspension last September.

However, CAS accepted Halep's explanation that she had unwittingly ingested the substance in a contaminated supplement, with the ruling coming 17 months after she was first provisionally suspended.

There has been a lot of support for the Romanian, who was defeated by Paula Badosa in her first match in Florida on Tuesday, but Wozniacki took a different view speaking to reporters after a 6-1 6-4 win over Clara Burel.

"I've always liked Simona," said Wozniacki, also a former world number one. "We've always had a good relationship.

"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, that I don't think people should be awarded wild cards afterwards.

"If you want to come back, and it's been a mistake, I understand, you should work your way up from the bottom.

"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.

"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."

Halep was less than impressed by Wozniacki's comments, responding: "Why did she say that?

"I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't cheat. I didn't dope. 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 are giving me love, so I will take that."

Halep looked like she had never been away as she raced to the first set in just 38 minutes but Spaniard Badosa, who is herself coming back from long-term injury problems, dug in to win 1-6 6-4 6-3.

At her post-match press conference, Halep said: "I missed this. I had emotions, but positive emotions; the crowd supporting me was so nice.

"The level of tennis was pretty good – unexpected for most of the people. I think I did a good job today. I'm happy with my first match coming back. I would rate it as a special day, honestly."

The 32-year-old admitted her career would have been over had the four-year ban been upheld but she remained positive the appeal against it would go her way.

"My parents always taught me that good always prevails," she said.

"I trust it 100 per cent 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."

Elsewhere, Venus Williams, 43, remains without a win since last August after a 6-3 6-3 defeat by Russian Diana Shnaider, who is 24 years her junior.

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