Halep has no Australian Open expectations after Sydney exit

Simona Halep knows it will be "tough" to mount a challenge for the Australian Open title due to a lack of match practice after losing to Ashleigh Barty on her return from injury at the Sydney International.

The world number one went down 6-4 6-4 to Australian Barty on Wednesday in her first match since September after recovering from a back injury.

Halep, without a coach after Darren Cahill took a year out, is not putting any pressure on herself to succeed in the first grand slam of the year in Melbourne so soon after making a comeback.

"I have no expectations, that's what I always say because I cannot expect myself to be at the highest level because I didn't play matches. But tennis is good, I just have to believe in myself more," said Halep.

"It's tough to say without matches, without great preparation that I can go far in Melbourne. I will go there and try and play better today and we'll see."

Barty saved nine break points to frustrate the French Open champion, who said her unseeded opponent deserved to win the second-round encounter in her homeland.

"It was a great match after almost four months since I played a full match at the US Open," Halep said.

"I think I played a good level of tennis, I had no inspiration in some important points. She played really well, her slice was great. She deserved to win, but I was so close to winning. I had so many chances to break her and to take advantage, but I couldn't. I feel I don't have the rhythm yet." 

Halep added: "She always plays well against me and all the matches were very tough. Today she was a little better than me because she had maybe 10 matches more than me this year, so she was better prepared than me."

The Romanian also revealed that she was not troubled by the injury which cut short her 2018 season.

"No pain at all, so I'm happy about that, it's a great sign. I will recover now and see how I wake up tomorrow morning because it's important," the top seed said.

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