By Val Febbo
Last week World No.2 Simona Hale announced her withdrawal from the Palermo Ladies Open beginning next Monday, the commencement of tennis’ international restart.
The two-time Grand Slam champion cited health concerns amidst a second wave of Covid-19 in her home country of Romania, prompting her decision to push back her return to Prague in two weeks time.
Additionally, the Italian government had placed a 14 day quarantine period for all people traveling to the country from Romania or Bulgaria.
“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 said on Twitter.
“I want to thank the tournament director and the Italian ministry of health for all efforts on my behalf.”
The officials at the WTA event were less than please with Halep’s late omission from the tournament, releasing a statement voicing their displeasure and stating that they had aimed to get Halep an exemption from quarantine.
“We found out with great bitterness the decision of the world number two to cancel her participation," said tournament director, Oliviero Palma.
"Yesterday we were optimistic, and we had informed Halep's staff about the fact that professional players are not obliged to quarantine,
“Nevertheless, Halep's staff only communicated us the final decision, frustrating all our efforts. We are embittered and profoundly disappointed."
Understandably frustrated by the decision, Palma and his team have worked hard to attract players to the first event back after lockdown, but the way they have handled Halep’s withdrawal is nothing short of embarrassing.
This is a global pandemic, and we have seen disasters like the Adria Tour and Atlanta when sports go back too early, especially tennis. Nobody can classify themselves as above a pandemic.
The Romanian has also indicated her intention to skip the upcoming US Open, which should have put an element of worry into the minds of the Palermo officials.
Plans should have been in place in the event of Halep’s withdrawal, yes she was a gargantuan drawcard for the Sicilian town, but in these times of uncertainty they have shown a blatant lack of respect and utter rudeness for someone who is protecting her own wellbeing. Something completely within her right to do.
Not to mention the fact that Northern Italy was one of the hardest hit regions by this pandemic, despite being in the south, a little common sense should have prevailed.
The former World. No.1 has every right to be offended at this situation, and the words of ‘embittered and profoundly disappointed’ should ring long in her mind.
Her team would be wise to advise her to never play in Palermo again.
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