Simona Halep withdraws from U.S. Open over COVID-19 concerns

On Sunday, Halep defeated third-seeded Elise Mertens 6-2, 7-5 in the Prague Open final to claim her 21st WTA title.

Halep is ranked number two in the WTA rankings.   -  REUTERS

World number two Simona Halep of Romania will not travel to New York to take part in the U.S. Open due to COVID-19 concerns, she said on Monday.

“After weighing up all the factors involved and with the exceptional circumstances in which we are living, I have decided that I will not travel to New York to play the U.S. Open,” Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion, wrote on Twitter.

“I always said I would put my health at the heart of my decision and I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe. I know the USTA and WTA have worked tirelessly to put on a safe event and I wish everyone there a successful tournament.”

On Sunday, Halep defeated third-seeded Elise Mertens 6-2, 7-5 in the Prague Open final to claim her 21st WTA title.

The Prague Open is the second European tournament since the WTA restarted last week with the Palermo Open amid the coronavirus pandemic, with strict health protocols in place and no fans in the stands and no media except a television broadcaster.

The U.S. has become the world's biggest hotspot for the novel coronavirus, recording over 5.4 million cases and more than 170,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

The U.S. Open, due to start on Aug. 31, will be played behind closed doors and Halep's absence is another blow to organisers following a spate of withdrawals.

Besides Halep, the women's draw has also lost other top-10 players in world No. 1 Asheligh Barty, Elina Svitolina (5), Bianca Andreescu (6), Kiki Bertens (7), Belinda Becic (8) eight due to their concerns about the pandemic.

World number two and defending men's champion Rafael Nadal decided to skip the tournament while five-time winner Roger Federer is taking the rest of the year off to recover from knee surgery.

Former world number four Kei Nishikori of Japan said on Sunday he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had pulled out of the Western & Southern Open, a warm-up tournament for the U.S. Open.

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