Simona Halep enters Prague, casting more doubt on US Open participation

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World No 2 Simona Halep will play in back to back clay-court events in Europe next month after announcing Wednesday that she will compete in the Prague Open, casting more doubt as to whether she will play at the US Open.

The Romanian had already confirmed that she would play in the first event when the WTA Tour resumes, in Palermo, starting on August 3. Now she’s doubling down on her clay-court preparation as the Tour tries to get back on track after a near five-month break because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The world No 2 confirmed the news in a video put out by the Prague Open.

Halep, who was unable to defend her Wimbledon title because the Championships were cancelled due to the virus, is focusing in clay as the Tour returns, which may be a hint of her plans for the two Grand Slam events still planned for 2020, the US Open and Roland-Garros.

The 28-year-old, who missed the 2016 Olympics because of fears about the Zika virus, is one of many players to express doubt about their participation in the US Open. As the champion at Roland-Garros in 2018, Halep is at home on clay and may choose to stay in Europe instead of playing at the US Open, which is scheduled to take place in its usual slot – August 31 to September 13 – albeit without fans.

The Western & Southern Open, usually held in Cincinnati, will be played at the US Open venue this year, in a bid to reduce potential spread of the virus as players move around. The tournament begins on Aug 21.

Roland-Garros moved from its traditional May-June slot to a start date of September 27 because of the virus. It will be preceded by back-to-back events in Madrid and Rome, with Madrid due to begin on September 14, two days after the women’s final at the US Open.

Former Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard will also be in Prague after announcing that she has received a wildcard into the draw.

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