Defending champion Bianca Andreescu became the latest high-profile player to opt out of the US Open on Thursday.

Andreescu has not played on the WTA Tour since October due to knee trouble and the 20-year-old says a lack of match practice, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, means she is not ready to return in New York.

The Canadian's withdrawal comes after Rafael Nadal, the 2019 men's singles champion, pulled out due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Andreescu posted on social media: "After many discussions with those closest to me, I have made the difficult decision not to return to New York this year.

"I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level.

"The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there.

"However, I realise that the unforeseen challenges, including the COVID pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.

"I want to express my appreciation to the USTA and the WTA for all of their efforts in making the event happen. I look forward to joining my competitors back on court soon."

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).

Coco Gauff moved into the Top Seed Open quarter-finals with an impressive win in Lexington on Wednesday.

The 16-year-old edged past second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-4 at the WTA International event.

Gauff, who reached the fourth round at the Australian Open this year, twice gave up a break lead in the final set before making the most of her third chance.

The American moved into the last eight, where she will face eighth seed Ons Jabeur.

Jabeur also battled, beating qualifier Olga Govortsova 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Jennifer Brady and Marie Bouzkova claimed straight-sets wins to reach the last eight.

Brady crushed sixth seed Magda Linette 6-2 6-3, while Bouzkova was too good for Anna Blinkova 6-4 6-2.

Second seed Petra Martic was eliminated from the Prague Open in a straight-sets defeat to Kristyna Pliskova, but Elise Mertens booked her place in the quarter-finals.

World number 69 Pliskova struck 28 winners to 13 unforced errors on home soil as she secured a 6-1 7-5 victory in one hour and 22 minutes.

The Czech wrapped up the opening set in just 21 minutes and Martic paid the price for passing up two opportunities to hold serve at 5-5 in the second.

Pliskova, a runner-up in Prague in 2017, made Martic pay by serving out the match and setting up a meeting with Ana Bogdan, who got a walkover after Lesia Tsurenko withdrew prior to their match.

Mertens ensured Simona Halep is not the only seed remaining in the draw by defeating Camila Giorgi 6-4 6-2, while, in matches held over from Tuesday, Laura Siegemund and Tamara Zidansek wasted little time in wrapping up three-set victories over Mayar Sherif and Katerina Siniakova respectively.

It was not a day off for Halep, though. The Romanian joined forces with Barbora Strycova for a doubles match against Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova that ended in a 6-3 3-6 10-8 loss.

Serena Williams will face sister Venus in the Top Seed Open second round after contrasting wins on Tuesday.

In action for the first time since the WTA Tour season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Serena edged past Bernarda Pera.

The top seed at the WTA International event, Serena recorded a 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory after being five points from defeat.

The 23-time grand slam champion raced through the final set, losing just seven points on serve to advance in Lexington.

Awaiting Serena in the second round is Venus, who was too good for Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-2.

The sisters will meet for the 31st time, with Serena holding an 18-12 win-loss record over Venus.

Sloane Stephens had endured a tough start to 2020 before the season was suspended, and the 2017 US Open champion suffered another loss.

The seventh seed was well beaten by qualifier Leylah Fernandez 6-3 6-3 to slip to a 1-6 win-loss record this year.

The only other seed in action was Yulia Putintseva, who brushed past Ajla Tomljanovic 6-0 6-4.

Coco Gauff, 16, was pushed in her opener, overcoming Caroline Dolehide 7-5 7-5.

CiCi Bellis, Shelby Rogers, Jil Teichmann, Anna Blinkova and Olga Govortsova also advanced.

Serena Williams needed three sets to defeat Bernarda Pera at the Top Seed Open on Tuesday in her first match since February.

The 23-time grand slam singles champion came from a set down to beat her compatriot 4-6 6-4 6-1 in two hours and 16 minutes in Lexington.

Williams' previous match was in the Fed Cup clash with Latvia in February, while she has not played a tournament match since January's Australian Open, the WTA Tour having been shut down since early match due to the coronavirus pandemic.

World number 60 Pera broke in the fifth game and fought off two break points on her own serve before a thumping winner sealed the first set.

Williams saw a 3-1 lead pegged back in the second and saved four break points to deny Pera the chance to serve for the match, but the 38-year-old found some of her famous fighting spirit to level the match after forcing a Pera error.

She then made comparatively light work of the decider to set up a second-round clash with either Victoria Azarenka or sister Venus Williams.

"I've been practicing really well and I wasn't getting a good rhythm out here, and I just kept thinking, 'Serena, play like you've been practicing'," she said afterwards.

"I knew I could play a little bit better if I just hung in there.

"I feel like I always play Venus first or second round, every tournament, so that's annoying. And I always play Vika early, so we'll see."

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."

Fiona Ferro overcame fourth seed Anett Kontaveit to land the Palermo Open title and climb into the world's top 50 for the first time.

In the first WTA Tour event since March, Ferro saw her hard work during lockdown pay off as she earned a 6-2 7-5 win over her Estonian opponent.

Unseeded Ferro at one stage looked set to be taken to a deciding set by Kontaveit, who served for the second set at 5-3 but was broken.

The relinquishing of that lead allowed Ferro, who will nudge up from 53 to number 44 in the WTA rankings, to seize control and she powered to victory in a match spanning an hour and 43 minutes.

The Frenchwoman had continued with a practice routine during lockdown and won two domestic tournaments while the WTA Tour remained suspended.

Victory gave 23-year-old Ferro a second WTA tournament success, after also winning on clay last year in Lausanne.

 

Anett Kontaveit will tackle Fiona Ferro in Sunday's final of the Palermo Open, the first WTA tournament since March.

Kontaveit overcame top seed Petra Martic 6-2 6-4, before Ferro sank Italian title hopes in Sicily with a 2-6 6-2 7-5 win over Camila Giorgi.

Fourth seed Kontaveit is ranked seven places below world number 15 Martic and she won impressively in an hour and 29 minutes.

The Estonian will be targeting just a second career singles title and a first on clay, having previously won on grass in 2017 at Rosmalen.

She said: "I felt like I played a very good match today. I was quite aggressive, consistent, and I served especially well in the first set. It got a bit close in the end, but I played a good game at 5-4 and I'm happy to be in the final."

Martic called the match "a tough one" and spoke of missing chances to make the scoreline tighter than it became.

Ferro and Giorgi slugged it out for two hours and six minutes before their clash produced a finalist, with the home player falling agonisingly short.

World number 53 Ferro go after her second WTA title. Her first also came on clay at Lausanne in July last year.

The 2020 tennis season was suspended for almost five months amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the women's tour has returned with fans in Italy, socially-distanced crowds having been in attendance all week in Palermo

Petra Martic and Anett Kontaveit set up a Palermo Ladies Open semi-final clash with hard-fought wins on Friday.

Top seed Martic battled past qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3) in their quarter-final.

The Croatian converted four of seven break points and saved seven of 11 to advance at the WTA International event, which marks the first tournament back after the coronavirus-enforced break.

Martic will meet Kontaveit, who beat teenage wildcard Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1 4-6 6-1.

Unseeded pair Camila Giorgi and Fiona Ferro will meet in the other semi-final.

Giorgi got past seventh seed Dayana Yastremska 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 after saving two match points, while Ferro brushed past Italian veteran Sara Errani 6-4 6-1.

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.

Petra Martic and Anett Kontaveit battled into the Palermo Ladies Open quarter-finals, while Dayana Yastremska cruised through.

Martic, the top seed at the WTA International event that marks the return of the Tour amid the coronavirus pandemic, overcame Liudmila Samsonova 5-7 6-4 6-2.

Croatian Martic, the world number 15, needed two and a half hours to get past the qualifier in Italy on Thursday.

She will face Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the last eight.

Kontaveit was also pushed before recording a 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory over Laura Siegemund.

Yastremska and Camila Giorgi will meet in a quarter-final after respective wins over Oceane Dodin and Kaja Juvan.

Talented Ukrainian seventh seed Yastremska was too good for Dodin 6-2 6-4, while Giorgi beat Juvan 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Kim Clijsters and Andy Murray are heading back to Flushing Meadows after receiving wildcards for the US Open.

The former champions, who both won their first major title at the New York grand slam, will bolster a line-up that has lost some of its star appeal.

Confirmation of their wildcards came on Thursday from organisers of the tournament, which begins on August 31 and is set to be played behind closed doors.

The tournament will go ahead without its reigning men's champion Rafael Nadal and women's world number one Ash Barty, with both opting out after expressing COVID-19 concerns.

Clijsters has won three US Open titles, in 2005, 2009 and 2010, and announced late last year she would be coming out of retirement after seven years away from top-level tennis.

She played just two tour matches before the coronavirus pandemic caused the WTA Tour to shut down, losing to Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta.

The 37-year-old has been playing World Team Tennis for the New York Empire while the regular season has been suspended, producing impressive form she will hope to take onto the bigger stage.

Clijsters has been a wildcard entrant before, famously winning the 2009 title just weeks after returning to action following a two-year retirement in which she became a mother.

Murray, who made his slam title breakthrough when beating Novak Djokovic in the 2012 US Open final, has been battling hip injury problems in recent seasons and has fallen outside the world's top 100, largely because of inactivity.

The 33-year-old sits at 129th in the ATP rankings and, like Clijsters, will play at the Western and Southern Open before the US Open.

That tournament, ordinarily held in Cincinnati, has been moved to Flushing Meadows as tennis builds its bio-secure bubble.

Unusually, the US Open will be the second major of the year rather than the last, Wimbledon having been cancelled and the French Open moved to a September 27 start.

Elisabetta Cocciaretto scored the biggest win of her young career by defeating Donna Vekic to reach a maiden WTA quarter-final at the Palermo Ladies Open.

The 19-year-old, the youngest player in the draw, was a 6-2 6-4 victor over the Croatian sixth seed in Thursday's round-of-16 match.

It marks the first time Cocciaretto has defeated a top-30 player in her career.

There was more Italian joy as Sara Errani, a two-time champion, made it to the last eight in Palermo for the eighth time after coming back to defeat Kristyna Pliskova 3-6 6-4 6-3.

Home favourite Errani lost the first 13 points of the match but roared back for a 180th career win on clay – more than any other active player – and will next face Fiona Ferro, who defeated eighth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-5 6-2.

Rounding out the action, Aliaksandra Sasnovich hammered Jasmine Paolini 6-0 6-2.

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