Simona Halep is not putting any pressure on herself ahead of the French Open after Karolina Pliskova's retirement handed her the Internazionali d'Italia title.

Halep was leading the two-time defending champion 6-0 2-1 in Rome when Pliskova retired in tears because of injury.

The Czech called a medical timeout between sets and had treatment on her lower back and leg.

It is Halep's third consecutive title, with the two-time grand slam champion on a 14-match winning streak after a triumph that further solidifies her status as French Open favourite.

The 2018 Roland Garros champion is not willing to burden herself with the weight of expectation despite her hugely impressive form.

"It's just another tournament," Halep said. "I'm not going to put pressure on myself. I've played really well this year, with three titles already.

"I've played so much on clay, so I feel confident and happy that I'll have a chance to play another grand slam this year.

"I'm not going to let myself be bothered by things like the weather. I'll just be happy to take positives from this tournament and go there smiling.

"It's a dream for everyone to win the grand slam tournament from the first day, so it's my dream as well, but I'm not thinking that far.

"I just want to go there, get used to the courts and the atmosphere, and try to win every match I play. Every match is a battle, so I'll be ready for it."

Pliskova had won three of the previous four meetings with Halep but was full of appreciation for the Romanian after falling short this time around.

"Disappointing for me to not finish today, but Simo, obviously too strong," said Pliskova. 

"I always have to be 100 per cent to play a good match against you. Congratulations for the whole week. I think you deserve the title."

World number two Simona Halep extended her winning streak to 13 matches as she reached the final to delight the fans in attendance at the Internazionali d'Italia. 

Spectators were allowed at a WTA Tour event for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic suspended competitions, the Rome crowd witnessing Halep defeat Garbine Muguruza 6-3 4-6 6-4 in two hours and 14 minutes. 

Muguruza was the last woman to beat Halep, in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, but she was unable to produce a repeat in Italy, where the Romanian will be hoping to add to the recent titles she won in Abu Dhabi and Prague either side of the break. 

Halep, a two-time runner-up at this tournament, was 5-1 up in the third set but was pegged back to 5-4, only for Muguruza to produce back-to-back double faults that handed her opponent the victory.

"The victory is really important against Muguruza, always," Halep said afterwards.

"She's a very, very difficult player and a good player. It's always a good vibe and feeling when I win against her.

"I feel confident now that I was able to win this match."

Next up for Halep is Karolina Pliskova after the defending champion overcame Marketa Vondrousova 6-2 6-4.

Pliskova raced into a one-set lead against her fellow Czech, who was the runner-up at Roland Garros last year, but dropped her serve at the start of the second.

Vondrousova was unable to consolidate and paid the price for failing to stay in the rallies with the former world number one in the closing stages of a match that lasted one hour and 22 minutes. 

US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka lost a three-set thriller to Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali d'Italia to set up a meeting with top seed Simona Halep. 

Muguruza beat her fellow former world number one 3-6 6-3 6-4 after two hours and 19 minutes, having been one point away from falling 5-3 down in an entertaining decider at Foro Italico. 

The 2016 French Open winner managed to hold her serve on that occasion, then broke to love in the next game before going on to seal the match at the third attempt. 

"I think it was a tough match. I knew it was going to be a tough match. She's a good player, she's playing good, she's with a lot of confidence," said Muguruza. 

"I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I was ready for it. I stood behind her and was waiting for my opportunities. She was playing great at the beginning. She took the first set. I kept myself together and said, 'Okay, let's start another battle in the second set'."

Next up for Muguruza is two-time Rome finalist Halep, who saw Yulia Putintseva retire from their quarter-final meeting due to a lower back injury. 

After dropping her serve to fall 6-2 2-0 down to the world number two in 47 minutes, Putintseva, who played back-to-back three-set matches in the previous two rounds, pulled out of the match. 

Halep said of Muguruza: "Every time I played well against her, [I was] as much as possible aggressive. If I play my best game and if I feel great physically on court, I have a big chance to win the match. But every time is different, because she's playing so hard. 

"You don't really know what to expect. It's tough every time. So I don't plan for a specific match, because you never know on court."

Two-time Internazionali d'Italia champion Elina Svitolina was comprehensively beaten 6-3 6-0 by Marketa Vondrousova, who was the runner-up at last year's French Open. 

Standing between Vondrousova and her first final appearance since Roland Garros last year is reigning champion Karolina Pliskova. 

Second seed Pliskova overcame Elise Mertens 6-3 3-6 6-0 as she continued to impress after initially struggling when the WTA Tour returned in August.

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova cruised into the last eight at the Internazionali d'Italia on Friday, while Garbine Muguruza impressed again.

Tournament favourite Halep eventually looked comfortable in her 7-5 6-4 against Dayana Yastremska, but the Romanian had to fight back from a break down in the opening set as she was put on the back foot.

Halep slid 3-0 down in the opener, but she produced an admirable response when winning 12 of the following 13 points as she levelled up.

Another break from 5-5 allowed Halep to take charge, and from there she rarely looked in trouble, remaining in the ascendancy early in the second as she went 3-0 up, ultimately seeing out the win professionally despite Yastremska giving herself a chance with a break of her own.

"It was not easy against her because you don't really have the rhythm. She hits it very strong and it's tough to return her balls," Halep said, highlighting the need to get her head straight after the early wobble.

"After I lost the first three games, I just had to focus a little bit better and stop giving her the balls that she likes.

"I tried to change it up a little bit, make her move, [hit shots] a little bit high. I think during the match I found some solutions that were good to win.

"Big picture, I think it was a great match and gives me confidence that even in these conditions with a big hitter that I could win in two sets."

Awaiting Halep is a meeting with Yulia Putintseva, who fought back from a set down against fellow Russia-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina to edge an absorbing contest 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

Second seed and defending champion Pliskova came through fairly comfortably against Anna Blinkova 6-4 6-3, with the Czech next going up against Elise Mertens, who saw off Danka Kovinic in similarly routine fashion with a 6-4 6-4 victory.

Another tantalising quarter-final will be contested between Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza. Spaniard Muguruza caught the eye as she beat seventh seed Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1, not dropping serve once against her British opponent.

Azarenka, who incredibly crushed Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin without dropping a game on Thursday, should be fresh for the quarter-final as her last-16 opponent Daria Kasatkina retired due to an ankle injury at 6-6 in the first set of their contest.

US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka saw off Venus Williams at the Internazionali d'Italia to book a meeting against Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.

Azarenka, who beat Serena Williams in the Flushing Meadows semi-finals, won 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 against the American's older sister to earn an enticing meeting with Australian Open champion Kenin in the last 32.

In a battle lasting just over two hours, Azarenka had to save a set point before claiming what proved to be a pivotal tie-break, the win avenging a defeat to Venus Williams in the first round of the Top Seed Open last month.

"[A] different surface was definitely challenging, but I feel like I adapted very well," Azarenka said after winning the last of the first-round matches in Rome.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy, I knew I wasn't going to play a perfect game, but it was all about trying to find the right intention of what to do. I think it worked out.

"I felt that this was a great match for me to figure it out, the first match on clay. Venus played a really good match, it was good to see her also adapting to clay, changing and trying different shots. 

"It is going to be an interesting match [against Kenin] because Sonya's been my doubles partner for the last two tournaments and we know each other quite well.

"She's a great player, she's obviously been playing exceptional this year. I feel like I'm playing all these players I've lost to before, so I'm kind of given an opportunity to redeem myself!"

Number one seed Simona Halep won 6-3 6-4 against Jasmine Paolini and will next face Dayana Yastremska, who emerged triumphant from a three-set battle against Amanda Anisimova.

Second seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova beat fellow Czech Barbora Strycova 6-3 6-3, with Elina Svitolina and Elise Mertens also among those moving into the last 16.

There was no joy for sixth seed Belinda Bencic, though, as she was emphatically knocked out by qualifier Danka Kovinic, who earned a 6-3 6-1 win.

Simona Halep will not play the US Open, the world number two confirmed on Monday.

The Romanian played her first tournament since the WTA Tour resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic last week, winning the title at the Prague Open by beating Elise Mertens in Sunday's final.

Halep stated after that match she would provide an update on her status for Flushing Meadows on Monday, with the world number two opting to continue training in Europe rather than travelling to New York.

"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," the two-time grand slam winner posted on Twitter.

"I always said I would put my health at the heart of my decision and I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe.

"I know the @usta and @WTA have worked tirelessly to put on a safe event and I wish everyone there a successful tournament."

Halep's decision means only four of the present top 10 remain in the draw for the women's singles.

Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are all involved, but top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, defending champion Bianca Andreescu, Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Belinda Bencic have all pulled out.

On the men's side, Rafael Nadal – who beat Daniil Medvedev in the 2019 final – had already confirmed he will not play in New York, though Novak Djokovic announced his intention to feature.

The US Open main draw begins on August 31.

Simona Halep made it back-to-back titles with a straight-sets win over Elise Mertens in the Prague Open final. 

The world number two, who won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February before the WTA Tour's suspension for the coronavirus pandemic, sealed a 6-2 7-5 victory on Sunday. 

A very different story looked set to unfold after Mertens won the first two games, but Halep clicked into top gear to reel off six on the bounce and take the set. 

When Halep continued her streak by breaking in the first game of the second set, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Mertens. 

But the Belgian, chasing a sixth singles title, hit back immediately to keep her hopes alive. 

Ultimately, however, the class of two-time grand slam winner Halep told and the Romanian will soon have to confirm whether she will seek to cash in on this form by competing at the US Open, which has suffered from a spate of withdrawals over COVID-19 fears.

Simona Halep ended Irina-Camelia Begu's marathon week with a straight-sets triumph in Saturday's Prague Open semi-final.

World number two Halep claimed a 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 victory in the Czech capital and has the chance to extend her winning streak to nine matches having won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February before the WTA Tour's suspension for the coronavirus pandemic.

Begu deserves immense credit, though, having spent seven hours on court over her first three matches and having to conclude a three-set quarter-final triumph over Sara Sorribes Tormo earlier in the day with rain having delayed the match.

"I didn't play my best tennis but also she was tired, so in my opinion, it was a good match," Halep said in her on-court interview.

"I'm really happy that I could win it. It's always tough to play against her. She's a great player."

Awaiting in Sunday's final is third seed Elise Mertens, who defeated former finalist Kristyna Pliskova 7-5 7-6 (7-4) in the day's earlier last-four contest.

Simona Halep breezed into the semi-finals of the Prague Open with an emphatic defeat of Magdalena Frech on Friday.

Top seed Halep, playing her first tournament since the resumption of the season, took less than an hour to wrap up a crushing 6-2 6-0 victory.

The two-time grand slam champion came through three-set contests with Polona Hercog and Barbora Krejcikova en route to the last eight, but had no such trouble in a one-sided quarter-final.

Halep broke three times in each set as lucky loser Frech, playing her sixth match of the week, was blown away by the Wimbledon champion.

The world number two, yet to confirm if she will play in the upcoming US Open, said: "The whole game was better today.

"I'm happy that I can play better and better day by day. It was a good one and I'll take it."

Halep will either face fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu or Sara Sorribes Tormo for a place in the final, with the latter having taken the first set of their quarter-final before play was suspended due to rain.

Third seed Elise Mertens earlier overcame wildcard Eugenie Bouchard 6-4 1-6 6-4 and will take on Kristyna Pliskova, who advanced when Ana Bogdan retired due to injury when leading 5-2 in the first set.

Simona Halep had to produce a significant fightback to prevent a shock defeat to Barbora Krejcikova in the second round of the Prague Open on Thursday.

Neither player was particularly convincing in the early stages, with each of the first four games going against serve, but it was Krejcikova who settled quicker to take the first set 6-3.

She then brought the second set back to 5-5 after being 5-2 down, but Halep managed to see it out to level the match, before going on to seal the 3-6 7-5 6-2 win in the decider.

Top-seed Halep will face Poland's Magdalena Frech – ranked 174 in the world – in the quarter-finals after she saw off Arantxa Rus 6-3 2-6 6-4.

The day began with what turned out to be a gruelling encounter between Eugenie Bouchard and Tamara Zidansek, but the Canadian – who is attempting to climb back up the rankings after slipping to 330 – prevailed to reach her second WTA quarter-final of the year, winning 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 in two hours, 56 minutes.

Sara Sorribes Tormo had no such difficulty against Laura Siegemund as she emerged 6-2 6-3 victor, but she will have to wait until Friday to find out her next opponent after Irina-Camelia's meeting with Leonie Kung was suspended due to poor light.

Kung had just won the first set 7-6 (7-3).

Simona Halep made a winning return to the WTA Tour, edging past Polona Hercog 6-1 1-6 7-6 (7-3) in the opening round of the Prague Open.

In her first professional match in almost half a year, world number two Halep, who skipped last week's Palermo Open and will not make a decision on whether to play the US Open or not until after the tournament in the Czech Republic, was made to work hard for victory by the unseeded Hercog.

The Romanian picked up an early break and responded to dropping her serve in game three of the first by reeling off the next four in succession to take the set.

When Halep started the second set by breaking Hercog the writing appeared to be on the wall, but the Slovenian world number 46 fought back valiantly to force a decider in emphatic fashion.

Halep was unable to convert any of the six match points that came her way after breaking for a 5-3 lead, with Hercog clinging on to take the match to a third-set tie-break.

After failing to consolidate an opening mini-break, Hercog's resistance was finally broken after two hours and five minutes when a forehand into the net sent top seed Halep into the second round.

Wildcard Barbora Krejcikova ensured Halep's next match would not be an all-Romanian affair by beating Patricia Maria Tig 6-4 6-3.

Second seed Petra Martic defeated Varvara Gracheva 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 and third seed Elise Mertens needed three sets to overcome Jasmine Paolini 7-5 4-6 6-3.

A number of other seeded players were not as successful. Ekaterina Alexandrova (5) fell to qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (6) went down 7-5 6-2 to Arantxa Rus, and Anastasija Sevastova (9) lost 6-2 6-2 to Irina-Camelia Begu.

Eugenie Bouchard secured an upset in the only main-draw match that could be completed on day one of the Prague Open.

Former Wimbledon finalist Bouchard was playing for the first time since the WTA Tour was shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the weather prevented a number of her contemporaries from taking to the court.

The wildcard Canadian - now ranked 330th - was a 6-0 6-3 victor over eighth seed Veronika Kudermetova.

Reflecting on her return to action, Bouchard said: "It's hard to know what to expect. I haven't played a real match since January.

"I've played a couple of exhibitions, which helped a lot, but it's still different, it's not a real tournament. I didn't set any expectations.

"I'm so grateful to have a job and to have this opportunity. You appreciate things more when they're taken away from you."

"I didn't know what to expect in terms of my level. I played better than I expected. I just wanted to be there mentally, no matter what."

Kristyna Pliskova had already played at last week's Palermo Open but was frustrated in her efforts to get past 15-year-old WTA debutant Linda Fruhvirtova on Monday.

The match was twice stopped due to a thunderstorm, with the second heavy downpour leading to the suspension of play for the day.

That meant no action for third seed Elise Mertens and Jasmine Paolini, who each lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Italy.

Meanwhile, Dayana Yastremska and Daria Kasatkina withdrew from the tournament due to dental and hamstring issues respectively.

Simona Halep was belatedly set to make her WTA comeback on Tuesday.

She told WTA Insider: "Honestly, I don't really know how to manage now the comeback.

"The good thing is that everyone is in the same position. I was not injured and forced to stay away from tennis. Everyone is in the same position and now we will see who is going to manage the comeback better.

"I feel like I have the experience to deal with it and, if I take it relaxed and give my best every match, I'm pretty sure that soon I will touch the level again.

"But I'm also sure I will struggle a little bit because my style and my type of personality is to keep playing matches and always I needed matches to find the rhythm.

"Now it's different. So I cannot complain but I also cannot be happy. It's in the middle."

Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens will not take part in this year's US Open due to concerns about coronavirus.

Svitolina and Bertens on Friday became the latest high-profile players to opt out of the tournament that is due to be played behind closed doors in New York from August 31.

With women's world number one Ash Barty having already decided against competing, three of the WTA Tour's top 10 players have now pulled out.

Svitolina, ranked fifth in the world, posted on Twitter: "Considering all the aspects, I have decided not to play the US Open 2020.

"I want to thank the USTA [United States Tennis Association], organisers and WTA for giving the players a chance to play and the fans a chance to watch this great event.

"I understand and respect all the efforts they are putting in to make it happen in a safe environment, but I still don't feel comfortable to travel to the US without putting my team and myself at high risk."

World number seven Bertens said the 14-day quarantine upon returning to the Netherlands from the USA would prove too much of hindrance to her preparation for the French Open, which will take place from September 27.

"After long consideration I have decided not to go to the States for Cincinnati [the Western and Southern Open, which has been moved to New York] and the US Open," Bertens posted on Instagram.

"The situation around COVID-19 is still that worrying and the health of everyone and the control over this virus is priority.

"[The Dutch] prime minister indicated yesterday that we should be quarantined for 14 days after coming back from the States. Of course, we respect this as a team and this would disturb our preparation for my beloved clay court tournaments in Rome and Paris.

"I hope the situation will soon take a positive turn and wish everyone good health."

The WTA Tour returned this week with the Palermo Open and, after skipping that event, world number two Simona Halep has arrived in the Czech Republic to play in the Prague Open next week.

Halep previously admitted to having concerns about participating in the US Open.

Reigning men's singles champion Rafael Nadal will not take part due to worries about COVID-19, while Roger Federer will miss out after undergoing knee surgery.

Novak Djokovic is expected to make a definitive announcement on his participation this week.

Tennis had a rotten lockdown but now the professional tours are emerging from hibernation. 

The men must wait a fortnight, but in Sicily a number of leading women will, from Monday, take part in the Palermo Open, a minor clay-court event that will face scrutiny like it has never known before. 

Tennis must prove it can stage events responsibly, not least because the sport's reputation took a hit with the calamitous ad hoc Adria Tour. That event saw stars including men's world number one Novak Djokovic, whose brainchild it was, and Grigor Dimitrov hit by coronavirus. 

The ATP and the WTA, governing bodies of the men's and women's tours respectively, will apply stringent rules and demand impeccable player compliance over the coming months. 

They have already seen tennis wiped out in China for the rest of the year, on top of Wimbledon's cancellation, and can ill afford any further momentous setbacks. 

At the end of August, the US Open is due to begin at Flushing Meadows, a behind-closed-doors grand slam.

But with a number of leading players already opting out or showing reluctance to travel during the pandemic period, it would be easier to return a barrage of John Isner serves than to accurately figure how the rest of the tennis year pans out. 

Sicily for starters

Palermo organisers expected Simona Halep, the world number two and reigning Wimbledon champion, to join them, and it was with "great bitterness" that they acknowledged the news she would be staying at home in Romania. 

Halep cited rising COVID-19 cases in her home country and her own "anxieties around international air travel". 

Jelena Ostapenko, Johanna Konta and Svetlana Kuznetsova were among others to pull out, with a number of factors behind the loss of a host of the event's star attractions. 

Arguably, though, the standard of the tennis in the week ahead will pale into insignificance against the success of the tournament from a health and safety perspective. 

One player tested positive for coronavirus after arriving in Palermo, organisers said on Saturday, and was kept away from all others, withdrawing from the tournament. 

The eyes of the tennis world will focus on the modest ASD Country Time Club, not least because a small number of tennis fans will also be allowed entry. 

American trilogy

Can the United States, where over 150,000 have died with coronavirus, provide safe haven for the biggest stars in tennis later this month? 

Authorities are optimistic ahead of a disrupted US hard-court swing getting under way, but there can be no guarantees, despite best efforts. There are three major tournaments in the US in August, each brimming with the biggest names in the game. 

A new WTA event in Kentucky was announced in mid-July, and starts on August 10, with a field boasting Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff.  

From Kentucky, the best women's players in the world will head to New York for the Western and Southern Open, relocated to Flushing Meadows from Cincinnati this year in a move to save the tournament. 

That event, scheduled to run from August 21 to 28, is where the elite men make their re-entrance, with no ATP events scheduled until then. 

And the following week sees the US Open get under way at the same venue - all being well. 

Players will be expected to keep to their tournament bubbles throughout, tests will be carried out and players closely monitored. Any slip-ups could spell peril. 

Who's coming back? Who's not?

Halep is skipping Palermo and as of Sunday, August 2, she was not listed for the Western and Southern Open; however, she may play an event in Prague, starting on August 10. 

Given Halep's clear travel concerns, it would be little surprise were she to skip the US Open, which is a decision world number one Ash Barty has already taken. Barty's fellow Australian, Nick Kyrgios, has also chosen not to travel to the United States. 

Great Britain's Andy Murray, who appears keen to head to the States, has suggested a number of leading male players will swerve the US tournaments, yet the likes of Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Dominic Thiem have entered the Western and Southern Open. 

Any of those players could still pull out, Nadal having notably expressed misgivings about international travel during lockdown. 

But will the temptation to go after another grand slam title at the US Open prove too alluring? Nadal is just one behind Roger Federer's record haul of 20 men's singles slams, with Djokovic having 17 majors to his name. 

Federer is sitting out all this drama, having undergone season-ending knee surgery. 

It comes as no surprise to see Serena Williams, one short of Margaret Court's women's record of 24 singles slams, committing fully to the weeks ahead. 

With no Barty and perhaps no Halep, Williams, who turns 39 next month, may perhaps never have a better opportunity to draw level with Court.

Palermo Open tournament organisers have been left "embittered" and "profoundly disappointed" over Simona Halep's decision to withdraw from the event.

Halep on Sunday cited the rise in coronavirus cases in Romania and anxieties around international air travel as her reasons for opting out of the first WTA Tour event since March.

The Romanian's participation in the tournament, which starts on August 3, was in doubt due to new quarantine regulations in Italy.

It was announced on Friday that all visitors who have spent time in Romania or Bulgaria in the past 14 days would need to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Italy.

Tournament director Oliviero Palma wrote to Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza to seek an exemption for Halep, and regional assessor of health Ruggero Razza informed the 2019 Wimbledon champion that tennis players would not need to quarantine.

Yet the two-time grand slam champion has delayed her return as she is not ready to head overseas.

She said in a statement released to Stats Perform News on Sunday: "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.

"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."

Palma was not at all impressed with Halep's withdrawal.

He said: "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.

"Nevertheless, Halep's staff only communicated us the final decision, frustrating all our efforts. We are embittered and profoundly disappointed."

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