Halep withdraws from Palermo, Konta also unsure, Murray hopes for U.S. Open

SHOWS:

INTERNET (JULY 26, 2020) (SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE - ACCESS ALL) (MUTE)

1. MESSAGE POSTED ON SIMONA HALEP'S TWITTER PAGE, READING (English): "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. I WANT TO THANK THE TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR AND THE ITALIAN MINISTRY OF HEALTH FOR ALL EFFORTS ON MY BEHALF"

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA (FILE - JULY 15, 2019) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

2. WIMBLEDON WOMEN SINGLES CHAMPION, SIMONA HALEP, WALKING TOWARDS AIRPORT BUILDING WITH TROPHY

3. ROMANIAN FLAGS

4. SIGN, READING (Romanian): "WE THANK YOU SIMONA!"

5. HALEP POSING FOR PICTURES WITH WIMBLEDON TROPHY

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (FILE - JUNE 2018) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

6. SIMONA HALEP TRAINING

INTERNET (JULY 26, 2020) (SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE - ACCESS ALL) (MUTE)

7. MESSAGE POSTED ON PALERMO LADIES OPEN'S TWITTER PAGE, READING (English): "#PALMA (CEO #PLO20: "WE FOUND OUT HALEP'S DECISION WITH GREAT BITTERNESS. YESTERDAY WE WERE OPTIMISTIC, AND WE HAD INFORMED HALEP'S STAFF ABOUT THE FACT THAT PROFESSIONAL PLAYERS ARE NOT OBLIGED TO QUARANTINE."

8. MESSAGE POSTED ON PALERMO LADIES OPEN'S TWITTER PAGE, READING (English): "#PALMA (CEO #PLO20): "REGIONAL ASSESSOR OF HEALTH RUGGERO RAZZA, HAD DIRECTLY SENT TO HALEP AN OFFICIAL COMMUNICATION EXPLAINING HOW THE ORDINANCE OF THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH WAS NOT TO BE APPLIED TO WORKERS, THEREFORE NEITHER TO PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYERS."

9. MESSAGE POSTED ON PALERMO LADIES OPEN'S TWITTER PAGE, READING (English): "#PALMA (CEO #PLO20): "NEVERTHELESS, HALEP'S STAFF ONLY COMMUNICATED US THE FINAL DECISION, FRUSTRATING ALL OUR EFFORTS. WE ARE EMBITTERED AND PROFOUNDLY DISAPPOINTED."

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 26, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

10. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WORLD NUMBER 14, JOHANNA KONTA, SAYING:

"I think Palermo for me is not fully certain. I did enter it. I think I'm giving myself until tomorrow to see what I can -- whether I can go or not. I definitely -- Ideally, I'd like to play Lexington and then go to New York to play the New York tournament -- the Cincinnati in New York and then the U.S. Open. That's always been my ideal schedule, but obviously with all the uncertainty and not sure if the U.S. is going ahead or the tournaments there and obviously the men had Washington cancelled, so there's always been just some uncertainty in the air. So, I wanted to at least be in a position that I still had something to play, but I'll be making a call on it kind of today / tomorrow whether we keep it on the schedule or take an educated guess that hopefully Lexington and the rest of the U.S. tournaments go ahead and then hopefully I'll just be playing that and yes."

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (FILE - AUGUST 27, 2018) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

11. VARIOUS EXTERIORS OF ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM - THE MAIN COURT AT FLUSHING MEADOWS - THE VENUE FOR THE U.S. OPEN

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 26, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

12. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WORLD NUMBER 14, JOHANNA KONTA, SAYING:

"I think with everything that's happened, I think being adaptable and flexible is definitely an important factor. So, I definitely was open to it if it was going to get cancelled. However, if the U.S. Open is intending to go ahead and does go ahead, I definitely want to play. I think just really looking to be as sensible as I can on my end and I know every tournament that does go ahead will be doing the best that they can to keep everyone safe and then I'm just looking forward to hopefully getting back out on court."

13. WHITE FLASH

14. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WORLD NUMBER 14, JOHANNA KONTA, SAYING:

"Well, right now I actually haven't even been looking into daily travel updates. I think I'm basically trying to wait 'til as long as possible 'til I would need to travel and then kind of see 'OK, what's happening now,' just because there's been so much volatility and so much change in a really short space of time that I almost felt like it was counter-productive for me to keep up with it all because one day it will be a complete 180 to what it was before. So, I know the WTA are -- every week they have player calls and especially with the tournaments, Palermo coming up and also Lexington coming up they are doing calls about the tournaments and so they are definitely really trying their best to keep their players informed and prepared to be able to go compete."

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (FILE - AUGUST 27, 2018) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

15. PEOPLE WALKING BY SIGN FOR THE U.S. OPEN

16. THE UNISPHERE SCULPTURE (LARGE STEEL GLOBE) IN FLUSHING MEADOWS-CORONA PARK

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 26, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

17. (SOUNDBITE) (English) THREE-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, ANDY MURRAY, SAYING:

"Yes, I'll be a bit apprehensive probably getting there and I think the closer it gets to the tournament like I was thinking maybe about trying to travel somewhere beforehand to get in some hot-weather training but then you're increasing your risk in potentially catching the virus which then means you potentially can't train or travel for a couple of weeks which could then put playing a grand slam in doubt. So, there's things like that that I've probably had to sort of change my thinking with and alter the way I think. But yes, that's the situation that we're in and hopefully the U.S. Open can go ahead and that it's OK, but if not, I'm also OK with that. It's not like I'm saying it must go ahead. Just so long as it's safe for the players then we need to try and get back to competing when it's safe to do so."

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (FILE - JUNE 28, 2019) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

18. VARIOUS OF ANDY MURRAY AND HIS DOUBLES PARTNER AT WIMBLEDON IN 2019, PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT, ON COURT PRACTISING

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 26, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

19. (SOUNDBITE) (English) THREE-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, ANDY MURRAY, SAYING:

"I'm probably only going to play doubles this week because I'm still -- yes because I'm still just trying to build up to get ready for New York. It would be good for me to get some competitive matches in to get sort of sharpness and stuff up again, but also I don't want to take kind of any -- because a lot of tennis next week. Yes, I don't want to take any risks with just -- with the tournaments in the States just a few weeks away. But I mean it will be, like I right now I'm sort of like training on the court four days a week. So still I'll be training on the days of the matches but yes that's kind of my plan for the week."

20. WHITE FLASH

21. (SOUNDBITE) (English) THREE-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, ANDY MURRAY, SAYING:

"Well for a lot of the guys, it will be five-six months but for me yes, it will be like 10 months or something since I last competed properly. So, I've spoken to my team about potentially playing qualifying in Cincinnati to try and get a couple of matches in or obviously I would take the wildcard but that's also something. I mean, I haven't played the week before a slam -- I can't remember the last time I did that. I would have been 19 probably, so it's been a while."

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (FILE - JUNE 28, 2019) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

22. MURRAY AND HIS DOUBLES PARTNER AT WIMBLEDON IN 2019, PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT ON COURT PRACTISING

STORY: World number two Simona Halep has withdrawn from next month's Palermo Ladies Open following Italy's decision to impose a mandatory quarantine for people coming from Romania and Bulgaria amid the coronavirus pandemic, organisers said on Sunday (July 26).

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Friday (July 24) people who have been in Romania and Bulgaria in the past 14 days will be quarantined upon arrival in Italy, a move aimed at preventing the importation of COVID-19 cases.

"We found out with great bitterness the decision of the world number two to cancel her participation," the tournament's director Oliviero Palma said in a statement.

Palermo will be the first professional tennis event across the WTA and men's ATP Tours after a five-month break, with action scheduled to get underway on the clay courts of the Sicilian capital from August 3.

"Given the recent rise in Covid-19 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 their efforts on my behalf and I wish the tournament a successful week."

Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion and 2018 French Open winner, has also committed to the Prague Open, scheduled to start on August 10.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the novel coronavirus, but the number of daily new infections being reported is a fraction of the numbers in late March. The country has recorded over 35,000 deaths from the virus.

Palma said the organisers had written an urgent letter to Italy's health minister, asking for exemption for tennis players taking part in the event.

"Yesterday we were optimistic, and we had informed Halep's staff about the fact that professional players are not obliged to quarantine," Palma said. "We are embittered and profoundly disappointed."

Palermo will have strict health precautions and all players will undergo COVID-19 tests before they come, on arrival and every four days subsequently.

The second seed at the Palermo Ladies Open, Johanna Konta has also said she's unsure whether she'll compete in the tournament as the world number 14 wants to play in the Top Seed Open and Cincinnati Open ahead of the U.S. Open.

The British number one, who is playing in the Battle of the Brits Mixed Team Tennis tournament in Roehampton this week, told reporters on Sunday that she would make a decision on Palermo within 24 hours.

Konta added the decision would hinge on an educated guess whether the U.S. tournaments would go ahead.

Andy Murray is also playing in the Battle of the Brits competition and he said at Sunday's news conference that he would be apprehensive about travelling to the U.S. but would intend to play in the U.S. Open and possibly Cincinnati if both tournaments go ahead.

The Cincinnati Open will be played at Flushing Meadows - the home of the U.S. Open - a week before the grand slam takes place so players can remain in a social bubble during both tournaments.

(Production: Tim Hart)

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