Halep withdraws from Palermo Ladies Open

The World No 2 withdrew from the Palermo Ladies Open following Italy's health directive that everyone arriving from Romania and Bulgaria would be quarantined for 14 days

Simona Halep has decided to withdraw from the Palermo Open

The Palermo Ladies Open, which will mark the restart of competitive tennis, lost its biggest drawcard as former world no 1 Simona Halep withdrew from the tournament on Sunday due to Italy’s quarantine order.

On Friday, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza had said that people coming in from Romania and Bulgaria will have to be quarantined for period of 14 days, to reduce the chances of importation of Covid-19 cases.

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“Given the recent rise in Covid-19 cases in Romania and my anxieties around international air travel at this time, I have made the tough decision to withdraw from Palermo,” World No 2 Halep said on Twitter.

“I want to thank the tournament director and the Italian ministry of health for all their efforts on my behalf and I wish the tournament a successful week.”

The Palermo Open is scheduled to be played on clay courts in the Sicilian capital from August 3. It will be the first competitive tennis tournament to be held since the men’ and women’s tours were suspended in March due to the pandemic.

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“We found out with great bitterness the decision of the world number two to cancel her participation,” the tournament’s director Oliviero Palma said in a statement.

The Romanian would have been the top seed in an impressive field, which also featured former Grand Slam champions like Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jelena Ostapenko and British No 1 Johanna Konta.

The oraganisers had reportedly written to the Health Minister, asking for an exemption from quarantine for players taking part in the event.

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“Yesterday we were optimistic, and we had informed Halep’s staff about the fact that professional players are not obliged to quarantine,” Palma said. “We are embittered and profoundly disappointed.”

The Palermo Ladies Open will have strict health precautions and all players will undergo Covid-19 tests before they come, on arrival and every four days subsequently.