(CNN) – Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep said she experienced a panic attack on the court after losing to Qinwen Zheng in the second round of the French Open.
Halep, who won her first major title at Roland Garros in 2018, looked to be in control of Thursday’s game when she won the first set and broke up at the start of the second. But 19-year-old Zheng went on to take the second set and set up an early lead in the third, and win 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Seemingly having trouble breathing, Halep met the trainer twice in the final set.
“A little panic attack, let’s say,” he told Eurosport When asked what had happened. “It’s new and I didn’t know how to handle it. It was hard to breathe and I wasn’t very clear in what I was doing. It was a very difficult moment.”
Ahead of the French Open, 30-year-old Halep told CNN she came close to retiring from tennis last year as she recovered from a calf injury and battled the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Was being
She said partnering with coach Patrick Mouratoglu earlier this year had “brought that fire back”, but admitted after Thursday’s defeat that the ongoing effects of the past two years were still taking their toll.
“I can understand why this (panic attack) happened because I had two tough years with injuries and a lot of pressure with the pandemic and stuff,” she said.
“So maybe today I broke down a bit. My mind wasn’t strong enough. But now I’m good and so am smiling.”
Writing on Instagram, Mourtoglu admitted after the match that he is “not doing a good enough job” as Halep’s coach and “expects a lot better from himself.”
Halep responded, saying he was “ready for more.”
The former world No 1 earned praise for speaking openly about the panic attack, with Eurosport commentator and former player Tim Heinemann saying it was “so brave and so honest” for him to discuss what happened.
“He’s been there for years, he’s won big titles and it just goes to show that it can happen to anyone,” Heinemann said.
Zheng will make her debut in the third round of a Grand Slam when she takes on Elise Cornet on Saturday. The world number 74 could face Inga Swietake, the 2020 French Open champions, ahead of 30 consecutive wins in the fourth round.
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