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Healthy Halep ready to begin 2019 in Sydney

After hurting her back in late 2018 and missing the WTA Finals, world No.1 Simona Halep is no longer feeling pain ahead of her first outing in 2019 at the Sydney International.
6 January 2019, by AAP

Simona Halep says she is no longer experiencing back pain but is yet to test her physical capabilities in a match as she prepares for another appearance at the Sydney International.

Halep will make her first appearance of the summer when she takes her place in the stacked field at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre this week.

It will be the first time the Roland Garros champion will play since she ended her season in October due to a herniated disc in her back.

And while the injury didn’t require surgery, Halep, who has previously battled similar injuries during her junior years, has spent the past three months on ice.

“It was very scary because it was below the back, so it’s always dangerous. But I had treatment at home. I rested for about six weeks and I did nothing, just exercises for the back,” Halep said while sailing around Sydney Harbour on Sunday.

“I didn’t have pain while I was practising this period, off-season. So now I feel confident and it’s okay. But I need to see during the official match.

“I feel relaxed, I feel rested, I feel healthy with the back. But as I said, I didn’t play a match yet so I don’t know for sure how it’s going to be.”

Halep got off to a remarkable start last year, reaching the Australian Open final and claiming her first Grand Slam title in Paris before losing her final four matches of the season – with many of those losses coinciding with her back troubles.

Her losing streak included a shock first-round exit at the US Open.

However while hopeful she is back to full health, she will also head into a new season without a coach after splitting with Australian mentor Darren Cahill in November.

Cahill, who has spent the past four years with Halep, is taking a 12-month break from coaching to spend more time with family.

The 27-year-old Halep said she will not consider a new coach for at least the next few months.

“(Cahill) was a very big part of my career and I want to thank him for that. Together we won the Grand Slam that we always wished for,” she said.

“It’s going to be tough, I’m sure. And it was tough, the off-season, without a coach, without Darren. But he decided this and I fully understood because family comes first always.

“So it’s okay. I’m still positive to go ahead without coach for a few months, then we will see.”

With a bye in the first round in Sydney, Halep will meet either Jelena Ostapenko or Ashleigh Barty in the second round before a possible quarter final against Karolina Pliskova.