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Halep backs out of Palermo due to virus concern

Second-ranked Simona Halep withdrew from the Palermo Ladies Open Sunday following a quarantine ordinance issued by Italy’s health ministry.

“Given the recent rise in Covid19 cases in Romania and my anxieties around international air travel at this time, I have made the tough decision to withdraw from Palermo,” Halep tweeted. “I want to thank the tournament director and the Italian ministry of health for all efforts on my behalf.”

The Aug. 3-9 tournament revealed Sunday that the Romanian player’s manager, Virginia Ruzici, had informed Palermo officials of the decision. The move comes after Italy’s health minister on Friday signed an ordinance requiring all those who have in the last 14 days stayed in Romania or Bulgaria to quarantine.

“We were filled with regret when informed of the news,” tournament director Oliviero Palma stated. “We had informed Halep’s staff in detail about the fact that professional players shouldn’t have to go into quarantine.

“But nevertheless Halep’s staff informed us when their decision was already taken. We are disheartened and deeply upset,” Palma added.

Palma also said that a regional health minister had sent Halep a notice explaining that the government ordinance does not apply to workers, and therefore to professional athletes.

Halep was going to be the headline player for the clay-court tournament, the first professional tour-level tennis event following a five-month break for the coronavirus pandemic.

Four other top-20 players remain entered: No. 14 Johanna Konta of Britain, No. 15 Petra Martic of Croatia, No. 18 Markéta Vondroušová of the Czech Republic and No. 20 Maria Sakkari of Greece. Halep, the defending Wimbledon champion from Romania, is the top seed in the International-level WTA event that is scheduled to start Aug. 3 — the first official tournament since the coronavirus pandemic.

Halep is also entered in the Prague Open, which begins Aug. 10.

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