Serena Williams branded ‘arrogant’ over apparent Simona Halep doping swipe

Ewan West
Serena Williams and Simona Halep
Serena Williams and Simona Halep

WTA star Sorana Cirstea has declared that Serena Williams has “always had this arrogance” after the tennis great appeared to hit out at Simona Halep over her doping ban.

The world No 25 described Williams as an “extraordinarily good” player but claimed the American “didn’t accept when someone could beat her or took a title from her.”

On the day Halep was banned for four years for doping offences last week, Williams posted a message on X / Twitter that read: “8 is a better number.”

The 23-time Grand Slam champion has provided no further context to her tweet, but many have interpreted it as a suggestion she feels she should have eight Wimbledon titles.

Williams, a seven-time winner at the All England Club, was convincingly beaten 6-2, 6-2 by Halep in the 2019 Wimbledon final. The 41-year-old called an end to her remarkable career following the 2022 US Open.

In an interview with Sport Romania, Cirstea criticised the American for her post and defended her compatriot Halep, arguing she is innocent.

“Serena as a player was extraordinarily good. As a person, she always had this arrogance. She didn’t accept when someone could beat her or took a title from her,” said the 33-year-old Romanian.

“I know Simona. I don’t think she ever consciously doped. This suspension is for an innocent person. I was afraid to take anything, I was afraid to take an aspirin. I’m maybe a little paranoid, but it’s no joke. It’s every athlete’s nightmare.”

Halep had been provisionally suspended since last October having tested positive for the banned substance Roxadustat at the 2022 US Open. The two-time major champion was subsequently charged with irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).

The ITIA confirmed on Tuesday that both charges had been upheld, with an independent tribunal suspending Halep for four years for breaches of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP). The tribunal, established by Sport Resolutions, met on 28 and 29 June 2023 in London, and heard from expert scientific witnesses on behalf of Halep and the ITIA, with Halep also giving evidence directly to the panel as part of proceedings.

The former world No 1 quickly announced in a statement that she would appeal the decision, saying: “Today, a tribunal under the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme announced a tentative decision in my case.

“The last year has been the hardest match of my life, and unfortunately my fight continues. I have devoted my life to the beautiful game of tennis.

“I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and take pride in the fact I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance. I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban.”

The 31-year-old has not played since her opening round defeat to Daria Snigur at last year’s US Open.

Roxadustat is a substance legitimately used for the treatment of anaemia but is on the WADA Prohibited Substance list as it is considered a blood doping agent, which increases haemoglobin and the production of red blood cells.

READ MORE: Simona Halep hung out to dry with ‘bullsh*t’ doping ban, believes expert involved in case