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Tennis Star Halep Signs Up for Prague Claycourt Tourney, Casts Doubt US Open Entry

Romanian tennis superstar Simona Halep signed up for a less prestigious claycourt tournament in the Czech Republic, casting doubts on her entry to the 2020 United States Open. The two-time Grand Slam champion recently announced that she will compete in the Women’s Tennis Association-sanctioned Prague claycourt tournament that runs from August 10-16. Event organizers posted a video message confirming Halep’s participation. If the reigning Wimbledon champion opts not to join in the US Open, it will leave enthusiasts betting on Grand Slam tennis looking for other alternatives to gain better chances of winning.

Before the Prague event, world number two Halep will take part in another claycourt event in Palermo, Italy. The tournament will be the first women’s tennis competition since the WTA canceled some events due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The Romanian netter previously suggested that she will take part in European events in the remainder of the tennis season. This fueled doubts about her willingness to play in the US Open, which will take place in New York City beginning on August 31.

A possible red flag for the 28-year-old is America’s ongoing battle with COVID-19. The US has registered more than four million positive cases as of July 25, and the infections continue to rise. A month before, Halep’s representative sent a statement to The Associated Press, saying that she has no plans to sign up for the Grand Slam event.

Going for a second French Open title?

Halep’s decision is now to take part in back-to-back claycourt tournaments in Palermo and Prague. This signified her intention to capture her second French Open title. She previously won in Roland Garros in 2018, defeating American Sloane Stephens. The claycourt Grand Slam was rescheduled to September 27. She is aiming to redeem herself from a so-so performance in 2019. Halep tumbled to 51st-ranked Amanda Anisimova in the quarterfinals.

Her plan to stay in Europe to prepare for the French Open elicited mixed reactions from tennis oddsmakers, who will likely bet on Halep in the US Open if she opts to compete. Some said it is the right thing to do considering the current situation. With some of the infections acquired after traveling from one country to another, her decision is more of a precaution.

The Romanian feels that staying in Europe would lessen the risk of her contracting the virus. Other tennis pundits are saddened by her possible no-show in Flushing Meadows. If the world number two’s decision pushes through, the tournament will lose a title contender. This means the race for the title will be wide open.

Never Say Never

Despite giving a hint on her US Open situation, Halep is still leaving her doors open. Her representative added in the said AP statement that everything will depend on the prevailing health situation in the US. The Romanian netter stated that her decision is “not set in stone.”