DUBAI, UAE - For Simona Halep, Romania's recent Fed Cup defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic was a bittersweet experience.
Halep and company went into the tie - their first in World Group I since 1992 - as overwhelming underdogs against the defending champions, only to defy expectations and force a deciding fifth rubber. While this ultimately proved a bridge too far, Halep's disappointment was tempered by the relief of being able to compete pain-free once again.
This prompted a sudden change in schedule for the World No.3, who had planned to take February and March off to undergo surgery to tackle an ongoing sinus infection. Instead of sitting out her defense of this week's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Halep accepted a late wildcard to take up a place in the draw.
"I delayed it because I feel okay now. I got good treatment at home and now I feel that I'm able to play, so I've put it off until the end of the year, maybe - I'm not sure exactly when," Halep said during her All Access Hour in Dubai. "But now I feel good and I want to just keep playing.
"Actually I decided to delay the operation before Fed Cup; I really wanted to play in my country, for my country. So this helped me a lot to get some confidence. I had some good matches and thought that I feel good here [in Dubai] and would play some matches."
It has been a stuttering start to the campaign for Halep, whose preparations were dealt a couple of body blows: "It started in the beginning of December. I was practicing but it wasn't easy for me because I got tired very often and very fast. After that I had a stomach infection and I had to take some days off.
"It was tough, I came to Australia still taking antibiotics and it was tough for me to start playing tournaments. Then I had the Achilles injury and then before Melbourne, in Sydney, I got an infection of my nose and ear. So it was tough to play, it was tough to stay there focused."
Despite suffering a couple of surprise losses Down Under - against Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Sydney semifinals, then to World No.133 Zhang Shuai at the Australian Open - the 24-year-old is refusing to let hindsight cloud her thoughts.
"Yes maybe it would've been better if I didn't go to the first tournaments because I had the stomach infection but I thought it was going to be easy. But the jet-lag and everything was tough for me to adapt, it was tough to play," she added.
"But I don't want to regret anything and now I'm just keeping an eye on my health more and on enjoying playing."
Unsurprisingly, given her run to the title 12 months ago and victory in neighboring Doha in 2014, Halep has fond memories of this time of year.
"I'm happy to be back here. It means a lot this tournament because last year I won it. I have great memories from that time - many fans are coming to support me here.
"So I'm looking forward to starting the tournament and that I'm able to play."