Simona Halep gave herself the chance to change her mind, by keeping her name on the US Open entry list.
But in the end, the day after winning her return to tennis in Prague on Sunday, she went with what her instinct had been all along.
The world No. 2 will not be in New York in two weeks for the US Open.
She joins the world No. 1 (Ashleigh Barty), the world No. 5 (Elina Svitolina), the world No. 6 (Bianca Andreescu), the world No. 7 (Kiki Bertens) and the world No. 8 Belinda Bencic on the sidelines for what would be only the second major to be played in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike some of the others, this one is less of a surprise even if she is the sixth player in the WTA’s top 10 to take a pass on Flushing Meadows.
Halep also missed the Olympics in Rio four years ago, out of concerns for the Zika virus.
Now six of the top 10 out
The irony with all of this is that, at the moment, the New York City is one of the places that has best flattened its COVID-19 curve, while there have been resurgences in Europe.
But it means the top of the class that hopes to win the US Open is even further decimated.
And, for Halep (and the others), it means yet another long break.
After more than five months off while tennis is shut down, the earliest most can hope to resume is in ANOTHER four weeks, at the big tournament scheduled to be held in Rome immediately after the end of the US Open.
It means not having to change surfaces – they can remain on clay through the end of the French Open, scheduled to begin Sept. 27. And that may well be the last tournament of the season, the way the WTA schedule is looking.
But it’s another month off, during what has been an idle year already.
No great New York expectations
At the same time, the Romanian has not done particularly well in New York in recent years.
She lost in the second round a year ago, in a third-set tiebreak to American Taylor Townsend. In 2018, she was bounced in the first round by Kaia Kanepi.
Maria Sharapova defeated her in the first round in 2017. You have to go back four years, to 2016, to see a decent result; Halep reached the quarterfinals, losing to Serena Williams.
So that’s a double-edged sword. It’s a long trip, and a nerve-wracking situation, to put herself in – especially with the possibility that she could make all that effort despite her instincts, and be one and done.
On the other hand, it’s an opportunity to put some serious ranking points on the board and perhaps make up some ground on the world No. 1.
With the obvious assumption that she doesn’t need the prize money, health won out.
Practically, Halep’s withdrawal means Irina Khromacheva moves into the main draw, on a protected ranking of No. 137. Next in would be American Usue Arconada, who already has a wild card.
If she gets in on her own ranking, Allie Kiick (who was bypassed by a LOT of players on the list), would finally get the wild card.