No. 2 Ranked WTA Star Simona Halep Withdraws from 2020 US Open Amid COVID-19

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2020

Romania's Simona Halep holds her trophy after she won Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina in a final match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press

Simona Halep announced Monday she will skip the 2020 U.S. Open out of concern for COVID-19:

Simona Halep @Simona_Halep

2/2 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 🙏

The No. 2 women's player in the world competed in the Prague Open last week for her first event since March and won the tournament by defeating Elise Mertens in the final.

She has won nine straight matches dating back to February.

The U.S. Open has created stricter protocols to hopefully reduce the spread of COVID-19, which has affected several tennis stars this year. Kei Nishikori was forced to withdraw from the Grand Slam after testing positive for the disease.

There have been over five million cases of the coronavirus in the United States, leading to over 160,000 deaths, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the protocols that include players mostly remaining in hotels are also an issue for some top players.

"I know it's very strict; it's a little bit stressful in my opinion," Halep said earlier this month, per Sudipto Ganguly of Reuters. Though the Romanian acknowledged the value of the protocols, she didn't necessarily want to take part in it.

"My priority is my health, the mental part, and I don't want to stress myself for anything," Halep added. "My final decision, when I take it, will be based on these."

The 28-year-old has now decided to miss the U.S. Open for the first time since 2009. She has reached the semifinals in the event in the past, although she has struggled of late with two first-round losses and a second-round loss in the past three years.

Halep's exit also continues a trend in the women's bracket, with Belinda Bencic, Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens, defending champion Bianca Andreescu and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty all withdrawing from the upcoming tournament, which begins Aug. 31.