Serena Williams cops backlash over brutal response to Simona Halep's ban from tennis

The tennis community has erupted over the 23-time grand slam champion's response.

Serena Williams speaking and Williams walks past Simona Halep.
Tennis icon Serena Williams (pictured) has caused a stir with a tweet following Simona Halep's four-year ban for a failed drug test and irregularities was upheld. (Getty Images)

Tennis icon Serena Williams has taken to social media and caused a stir after the shock announcement Simona Halep has copped a four-year ban. Halep has been dealt a devastating blow having been banned for four years over two separate anti-doping rule violations.

The Wimbledon and Roland Garros winner has been suspended since October 2022 after failing a test for the blood-boosting substance Roxadustat. Halep had her hearing pushed back a number of times, before a second charge was brought against her for irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport.

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Both the charges were upheld at the independent tribunal on Tuesday. Halep wouldn't be able to play until October 6 2026, but the two-time grand slam winner has vowed to appeal the decision.

However, in an unexpected twist, Williams has appeared to throw some shade at the Romanian over the tribunal decision. Halep won her Wimbledon title against Williams in 2019. Williams was going for her eighth title, but finished her career with seven after losing to Halep in straight sets at The Championship.

And Williams has put out a cryptic message when she posted: "8 is a better number." Most tennis fans took this as Williams throwing shade at Halep for beating her in the Wimbledon final.

To make it more interesting, Williams' husband, Alexis Ohanian, re-tweeted a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt that read: 'Keeping kids off drugs'. He wore this T-shirt when Williams played Maria Sharapova in 2019. This caused a stir at the time with the Russian banned for 15 months after failing a drug test in 2016.

Simona Halep celebrates.
Simona Halep (pictured) won her 2019 Wimbledon title against Serena Williams. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Ohanian accompanied the picture with the caption: "Some fashion is timeless". Williams commented: "Seriously not out of style". Williams could have equalled Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles with one more grand slam. She won her 23rd grand at the Australian Open in 2017, which was her final grand slam title.

Williams did receive some backlash for the comment. One Romanian tennis fan account posted the International Tennis Federation document from 2019, which showed Halep was tested 27 times throughout the season and was without issue.

Eugenie Bouchard also commented: "I was told not to tweet today". Many also felt this was a comment on the Halep ruling with Bouchard having made a comment on other athletes in the past that have been provisionally suspended for failing a drug test.

Simona Halep vows to appeal drug ban

Halep defended herself and blamed a contaminated supplement for the traces of the banned drug. "I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to the court," she said in a statement. She also said she would fight to clear her name and would "pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question."

However, the finding ruled: "The tribunal accepted Halep's argument that she had taken a contaminated supplement, but determined the volume the player ingested could not have resulted in the concentration of roxadustat found in the positive sample."

Halep took aim at the federation in her statement: "The ITIA relied solely on the opinions of these experts who looked only at my blood parameters - which I've maintained for more than 10 years in the same range," she said.

"This group ignored the fact no prohibited substance has ever been found in my blood or urine samples with the sole exception of one August 29 positive test for roxadustat."

Karen Moorhouse, CEO, said the ITIA had followed the proper processes in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code.

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