Simona Halep heaped praise on Ashleigh Barty as the world number one returned to the court for the first time in 11 months.
Barty opted to skip almost an entire calendar year of tennis due to the coronavirus pandemic, though she retains her title as world number one.
But Halep, who played Barty at the 'A Day at the Drive' exhibition tournament in Adelaide on Thursday, told fans she felt her opponent had suffered no loss of form despite the time out.
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"Ash (Barty) doesn’t look like she didn’t play last year, so congrats to her," she said.
Barty, too, looked relieved to finally be back on court and was stoic in her belief that she'd eventually return to her best form.
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"I’ve trained over the last few months but nothing can replicate what we did out here today," she said.
I just enjoyed it so much. If it’s not good next week, it might be the week after, and if it’s not the week after then I’ll get another opportunity eventually.
"I’ll just keep chipping away trying to do my best."
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Roughly 4000 fans were allowed to watch the exhibition as Australians reaped the rewards of their nation's strict lockdown laws. And after almost a year playing behind closed doors, Halep said that it felt like playing tennis for the first time all over again.
"Playing in front of you was a pleasure. I was very nervous and it felt like the first time I played a match," added Halep.
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