“After weighing up all the factors involved and with the exceptional circumstances in which we are living, I have decided that I will not travel to New York to play the @usopen,” tweeted Halep, the current Wimbledon champion.
“I always said I would put my health at the heart of my decision and I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe.” The Romanian added: “I know the @usta and @WTA have worked tirelessly to put on a safe event and I wish everyone there a successful tournament.”
Halep joins a host of top players who are passing on playing at Flushing Meadows when the next Grand Slam tournament begins on August 31.
Reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada will not play, joining men’s 2019 winner Rafael Nadal in skipping the tournament.
Also absent from this year’s US Open will be Australia’s top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, Ukraine’s fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina, number seven Kiki Bertens, eighth-ranked Swiss Belinda Bencic — whom Andreescu beat in the semi-finals last year — and past winner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, currenty ranked 32nd in the world.
Serena Williams, seeking a 24th career Grand Slam title to match Margaret Court’s all-time record, will compete, as will men’s world number one Novak Djokovic.
The only other players from the WTA top 10 remaining in the tournament are world number three Karolina Pliskova, reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, who is ranked fourth in the world, and Naomi Osaka, who sits in 10th place.
That leaves 38-year-old Williams with a golden opportunity to equal Court’s Slam record, which has been in her sights since she won her last major tournament — the 2017 Australian Open. Williams, who suffered a shock quarter-final defeat by Shelby Rogers at the recent WTA tournament in Lexington, Kentucky, has lost four Grand Slam finals since then, including last year’s US Open final to Andreescu.
New York was one of the hardest-hit US cities when COVID-19 first spiked in March and April, a temporary hospital even being established on indoor courts at the US Tennis Center.
Women’s tennis only got back under way early this month in Palermo, Italy, after the game’s virus-enforced shutdown came into effect five months early.