Simona Halep admitted last year was maybe the toughest year of her career but she is happy to be starting her 2022 season in Australia.
For the first time since 2012, Halep finished a season without winning at least one title.
Halep, a former world No. 1, also finished the year ranked at No. 20 in the world.
On Wednesday, Halep made a winning start to her season as she beat Destanee Aiava 6-4 6-2 at the Melbourne Summer Set 1.
“Last year was very difficult, maybe the toughest in my career, but I’m happy to be back here in Australia,” said Halep, per the Australian Open website.
“I really have a soft spot in my heart and winning here today, it means a lot and I’m happy to go through.”
Halep missed some big events in 2021
A calf injury forced Halep to miss the French Open, Wimbledon and Tokyo Olympics.
However, Halep drew positives from being out as she said it helped her clear her mind.
“I would say that [the time out] helped me to rest a little bit my mind because many years I’ve been in the top and the pressure was high,” Halep said. “I felt a little bit exhausted.”
Meanwhile, Madison Keys also made a winning start to her season as she beat Harriet Dart 6-3 7-6 (2) at the Melbourne Summer Set 2.
“At the start, obviously I was a little bit nervous and I feel like [two months is] not that long of a time, but in tennis world it is quite a long time to not play matches, so I was really happy to just quickly get back into it,” Keys told the Australian Open website.
“I think Harriet raised her level in the second set so I was just really happy to have a clean match. Some things to work on, but overall pretty solid.”