Former French Open champion Simona Halep says she suffered a panic attack in the middle of her second-round match and went on to lose against China's Zheng Qinwen at Roland Garros on Thursday (Friday NZ time).

Halep, a former world No 1 who won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019, appeared to have breathing difficulties after comprehensively winning the first set 6-2.

The 30-year-old Romanian called the doctor to the court after the second game of the third set, and while she finished the match, she lost the final two sets 6-2 and 6-1 and faded after looking comfortable in the opening set.

Simona Halep says she suffered a panic attack in her French Open match.

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Simona Halep says she suffered a panic attack in her French Open match.

“I probably put pressure on myself too much, because I really wanted to do well,” she told reporters in Paris.

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“I felt good. I practise. I work hard. But it just didn’t happen, and probably I got a little bit of panic during [the match] thinking, overthinking.

“But I was leading, so there is no reason, in particular, why it happened. But it happened, so I have to accept it. It’s something normal that everybody has.”

Halep, the world No 19, said she had never experienced a panic attack and was unable to focus in a match she was expected to win against the 19-year-old Zheng, the world No 74.

“I didn’t feel better during the match,” Halep said of her decision to carry on.

“If I would have felt better, I would have started to play a little bit better. No, I couldn’t. That’s why I said at the start I couldn’t manage it, and I don’t have many words about it. I just accept it, and I take it.”

Simona Halep is a former world No 1 who won the French Open in 2018.

Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Simona Halep is a former world No 1 who won the French Open in 2018.

Zheng won 11 of the final 12 games in her 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory that takes her into the third round.

Halep said she felt fine afterwards, despite the scare on court.

"After the match was pretty tough but now I'm good. I'm recovered and I will learn from this episode,” she said,

"[It was] nothing dangerous, in my opinion, but it happened. So it's good that now I can smile."

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