MIAMI -- Simona Halep wasn't sure what to expect at her first tournament in 18 months this week at the Miami Open. Following a tough first-round loss in three sets to Paula Badosa, the former World No. 1 and three-time major champion still managed to keep a smile on her face.

"Someone told me, 'If I get $1 for your every smile, I will be rich at the end of the day,'" Halep told WTA Insider. "I smiled a lot because I get so much love from people." 

Earlier this month, Halep was cleared to return to tennis with immediate effect after her four-year ban for an anti-doping violation was reduced to nine months as a result of her recent appeal to the Court for Arbitration for Sport. 

Eager to get back to action as soon as possible, Halep scrambled to get ready to play Miami, where she was given a main-draw wild card. 

"When I entered the first time on the court, I told the guys that I was with, and it seemed like I never left," Halep said. "So I have a good feeling coming back. I love tennis, so probably this makes it easier." 

Halep spoke to WTA Insider after her Miami return to discuss her emotions surrounding her return to tennis, what she has in store for her comeback and why her love for the sport never wavered.

WTA Insider: How were the emotions and nerves for you as you prepared for your return? 

Halep: Actually, when I was on the plane, I told my mom that I was super nervous because I didn't know what to expect from people. When you have such a difficult period, you don't know how people will see it or treat you. 

But the first day, it was incredible. So then the stress went out and I didn't stress myself in this direction. I knew that on the court it's going to be good. The crowd was incredible today again. So the love I received, it's even more than anything that I had until now. 

WTA Insider: Now that you've played a competitive match, what do you think you need to work on to get yourself back to the level you're used to?

Halep: Honestly, I don't have a very clear idea of what I didn't do well today and what I did wrong. I know that I missed some balls that normally I should not. But honestly, I feel I played the good tennis. 

So, firstly, I need a coach to guide me a little bit. I'm waiting for Carlos Martinez and to start with him. We set up a trial period. He worked with Svetlana [Kuznetsova], my friend and favorite tennis player. I admire his work. So, hopefully, we get very well along, and we're going to do some good results. 

But firstly, I need to talk to him and he needs to see me to tell me where I am because alone, it's difficult to set your level. 

WTA Insider: When you got the decision from CAS, what was your reaction?

Halep: I was talking to my lawyers and I was just smiling. I told them, "Guys, the decision is correct." I was so happy. I had tears after I finished the call with them. I was just happy that the truth came out and the decision was fair. 

So, 18 months of stress were finished, and I was now able to go play tennis. Because the most difficult thing was that I was not able to go to watch a tennis match. This was a disaster for a tennis player. Because I was suspended, I could not even watch a tennis match [at a tournament]. So it was difficult.

WTA Insider: Did find yourself resenting the sport?

Halep: No, I didn't have that darkness. People were supporting me from the first day until the last one. Seeing that the opponents supported me and they believed that I was clean gave me strength and gave me the positive to keep fighting. So no, I didn't have that. 

One person, a very important person to me, told me that I should not hate tennis because tennis did not give me this difficult period. I was thinking about it, and I said, yeah, tennis is still my passion. I love to do this, and I will be back when I have the right decision. 

Badosa overcomes returning Halep in Miami three-set opener

WTA Insider: So now what? 

Halep: I don't know [laughs]. This was so fast. 

To be honest, I was thinking that I would come back on clay to have a little bit of time to take a breath and settle down. But the positive feeling was so big, and I had some people around me who told me you have to go to feel the energy again. 

It was the right decision, the best decision to come to Miami, to feel the energy, to feel the love of people and to feel the freedom again. 

WTA Insider: How will you plan your comeback? 

Halep: I don't have a plan. It's just the first tournament, and I don't know what the plan is going to be, but I want to play as much as possible to get the rhythm back. 

I'm old. I'm not that young anymore and I have to manage the comeback very well. I don't want to get injured. Most people told me to be worried about it because 18 months is a lot and I have to take it slow. So I have to talk to Carlos and we're going to decide together, for sure. 

WTA Insider: What are you looking forward to the most right now?

Halep: I just want to enjoy the joy that I have. It's been incredible this week. Even if I lost first round, it doesn't matter. It's not about tennis these days. It's about my personal feelings, how I feel as a human being, and I feel great. 

So I want to keep this feeling, and I want it to help me in future tournaments because I know I'm very excited now, but there are going to be moments when I will be like, "Why am I here?" So it's going to be difficult, in a way, but I want to make it easier by enjoying playing tennis.