How Serena Williams’ former coach brought Simona Halep back from the brink of tennis retirement
In March 2015, Simona Halep reached the Australian Open final for the first time. She defeated the world number one and world number three, Angelique Kerber.
This was something of a miracle for Halep after a second straight Wimbledon title win, followed by a two-week period of pain and injury. Halep had already been forced into a mandatory pregnancy, and her form, especially on clay, was poor.
As a result, she had dropped down the rankings, and was now number five.
A new tournament was being held in her home country of Israel, and Halep was hoping to take her chance to return to the tour.
But the birth of the first of her sons, Hadas, brought a new and unexpected challenge for Halep and her coach, John McEnroe.
“I was not sure if John could actually finish the season,” she says. “He was not sure if I could do it on my own. But he got me through the next few months and helped me get to this position where I could have possibly still gone to Australia and started again, and I could still have gotten in the top 10. But because I gave birth to Hadas, I think my injury situation just forced my hand, and I just couldn’t continue.
In the final, she played her biggest match of her career
“When you give birth to a child, you are always going in the opposite direction of where you wanted to be,” she says. “You are having to make decisions on how you want to spend your time with your child and your sport. And I was making a decision about how I wanted to spend the next five and six years. It was very hard.
“I wanted to continue to play on the tour, but I am very thankful that I can say I played with my baby boy. I have to say a lot of it is a bit of a miracle, but it is a very special feeling, and it makes me very happy.”
When the news broke around the world of Halep’s pregnancy and subsequent decision to take a break from tennis, it shocked many in the media, and in particular, the tennis world. It was also a shock for