"It's really tough because the pain goes straight to the brain…it stabs you in the back, the heart, the head…" Simona Halep, the WTA's no. 3 player in the world said of her painful condition a few months ago. This issue had dogged her since her teen years and there was no mention of why she'd withdrawn from the Qatar Open last month. "Unfortunately I've decided to withdraw. I can't wait to be back in Doha next year," Halep simply said. It was inevitable that she would have to bail out of the tournament but waited to see how or if her condition would change before giving up.
It was in her late teens that Simona Halep was diagnosed with having herniated discs, four in fact. It is a painful condition where a disc or many in the back, budge and swell into an abnormal opening. "I had to strengthen the muscles…really well so that they keep my discs aligned," she would explain. The condition is troublesome and often recurring and this is what has caused Halep to withdraw from the Qatar Open last month and now the Dubai Duty Free Event, where she is the defending champion.
The Romanian's last time on the competitive court was on February 16th in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. She has played against Serena Williams and lost in straight sets. It has been 12 times they have played together with Williams having won 10 of the matches. Halep had gone down in straight sets and never would believe that two straight tournaments she would have to give it 'a miss' because of recurring back ailments. "Unfortunately I don't feel 100% in my lower back," she'd explain on why participating in the Dubai event from March 7-13 for her would never happen. She had won her 20th WTA career title there last year and looked like a strong contender this season if it weren't for her condition. "I'm disappointed that I won't defend my title," the Romanian says with regret.
2020 season has been nothing short of turmoil for players and the tennis community.
But Halep has done well considering not playing any of the New York events: Cincinnati Masters or the U.S. Open due to the Pandemic. She would win the Dubai opposite Elena Rybakina and the Prague Open against Elise Mertens. This season is beginnign to be a rough and bumpy one losing to Serena Williams in the quarterfinal of the Australian Open and now bowing out of Qatar and Dubai.
As the Dubai Duty Free Championships progress, there will be an unfolding of the next few events of the 2021 schedule. Meanwhile Simona Halep hopes that her back will have healed so she'll be able to continue on tour. She looks at her injury as one of the many things players go through and says matter-of-factly that "We're constantly in some sort of pain."