Will Simona Halep be fit for the French Open?
The world No 3 saw her clay season thrown into doubt after she suffered a calf injury at the Italian Open on Wednesday. Halep won her first Grand Slam in Paris in 2018 but could now miss the tournament, which starts on May 24.
What has Halep said far? What exactly happened? And what would her absence mean for the title favourites at the French Open?
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What happened to Halep?
Halep, 29, suffered a calf tear during her second-round match against Angelique Kerber at the Italian Open in Rome.
The defending champion appeared to sustain the injury when she tried to return a serve in the second set. She attempted to play the next point but then stopped and called the physio, who had to help Halep to her chair where she was assessed.
The match was soon called off and a concerned Kerber came to sit with Halep and helped pack her racquet bag. Halep was limping as she was helped off the court and later released a statement to say she will have an MRI on Thursday and is "unsure of recovery time".
"I’m so disappointed to end my tournament in Rome like this, but I will do everything I can to take care of the injury and be back as soon as possible. Thanks so much for your support and I’ll keep you posted on my progress,” she added.
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Kerber, who played doubles with Halep at the Miami Open earlier this year, said the injury initially came as a surprise to her.
"I was focusing more on my service game, because I start to play better in the second set. Then suddenly she called the trainer. I know that Simona is not calling trainers just like this. I knew, okay, something happened. But I really didn't saw the moment, so I don't know what exactly happened in the moment.
"But of course, I was feeling so bad for her because this is not the way I would like to finish a tough match against also a friend on the other side."
What tournaments could Halep miss?
It looks unlikely that Halep will be fit enough to play at the French Open, which starts in 11 days. That has been her most successful Grand Slam, having won it once in 2018 and reached the final twice more.
Halep has not had the best season by her own standards, but her quality on clay means she would have still been one of the favourites in Paris.
She could now also miss some of the grass season and the defence of her Wimbledon title, which she won in 2019, could be in doubt. The third Grand Slam of the year starts on June 28, so Halep would have around six weeks to recover.
After Wimbledon there is a quick turnaround to the Olympics in Tokyo, with the tennis event starting on July 24. Halep is not only set to compete but will also be the Romanian flag-bearer. She spoke after winning Wimbledon about her desire to win a medal, having not yet achieved any success at the Games.
"I want to win any medal in the Olympics to fulfil everything I have done in tennis. It is a chance to play for my country and I have always loved to do that. The disappointment from [losing in Fed Cup] this year really hurt me so to play well to get a medal, it would be a dream."
What does it mean for the French Open?
As unpredictable as the women’s French Open has been in recent years, Halep’s potential absence whittles the list of likely favourites down to three: Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek.
World No 1 Barty and Sabalenka have been the standout players of the clay season so far while Swiatek is the defending champion after blazing her way to the title last year. If Halep is out of Roland-Garros then world No 4 Sabalenka would move up to be the third seed at the tournament.
World No 2 Naomi Osaka and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams are both set to play, but neither have enjoyed the best preparation so far. Osaka has only won one match on clay this season while Williams’ return from a near-two-month absence saw her beaten by Nadia Podoroska in her 1000th professional match.
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