She might be the world's top-ranked female tennis player, but an out-of-sorts Simona Halep admits she has no expectations heading into next week's Australian Open.
Halep will head to Melbourne without a win in almost five months after losing her second-round match to Australian No.1 Ashleigh Barty at the Sydney International on Wednesday.
The Romanian showed glimpses of her best on Ken Rosewall Arena, but was outplayed in the clutch and eventually went down 6-4 6-4 in what was her sixth straight defeat since August.
"I think it was a great match after almost four months since I played one full match, US Open. I think I played a good level of tennis. I had no inspiration in some important points," she said.
"She played really well. Her slice was great today, so she deserved to win this match.
"But also I was very close to win. I had so many chances to break her and to take advantage, but I couldn't. I can feel that I don't have the rhythm yet."
It was the first match in over three months for the reigning French Open champion, having ended her 2018 season early due to a herniated disc in her back.
Halep insisted she was pain-free on Tuesday, but would wait to see how she pulls up on Wednesday before declaring that she is over the injury.
"No pain at all. I'm happy about that. It's a great sign. I will recover now, and I will see how I wake up tomorrow morning, because it's important," she said.
In any case, it is a disastrous build-up for last year's Australian Open finalist, who is also without a coach after splitting up with Australian coach Darren Cahill late last year.
While she avoided surgery, Halep admitted the rest was a risk she needed to take.
Asked whether she felt she had had enough match-play ahead of another grand slam charge, Halep said: "Not really, but I took the risk.
"I took a longer break because I needed it. Also mentally, also physically.
"So I have no expectations (in Melbourne). That's what I always say because I cannot expect myself to be at the highest level in this moment, because I didn't play matches.
"But tennis is good, so I have just to believe in myself more."