DOHA — After Simona Halep won her quarterfinal match over CiCi Bellis, she did the unthinkable and pulled out, giving Garbine Muguruza a free ride into the final.
Muguruza will now face the winner of Petra Kvitova and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, who outlasted former No. 1 Angelique Kerber 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-3 on the other side of the bracket.
“I withdraw because I cannot play anymore and it’s going to be dangerous if I force it,” Halep said.
All week, the Romanian had been referring to pain in her right foot (an injury stemming from the Australian Open), but she still reached the semifinals of the prestigious Premier 5. The Romanian rolled her left ankle in the first round in Melbourne, but it’s her right foot ailing her lately.
“Today it was worse, and that’s why I [made] this decision,” Halep said. “It’s not easy, but I talked to my doctor. He said that I didn’t have enough time to recover. The MRI shows that I have fluid and also tendonitis at the fourth toe.”
Halep had skipped St. Petersburg and Fed Cup in efforts to get ready for Doha. While many will judge her for calling it quits, players should certainly relate. Health rules their schedules—day in and day out.
After beating Anastasija Sevastova on Thursday, Halep hinted at what could happen next.
“I have just a little injury on my foot and the doctor said that it is nothing dangerous,” Halep said on Thursday. “It’s just the pain that is bothering me. So I will wait. Day by day I will see how it is and then I will decide if something is getting worse. But both are important: the tournament, also my health. So I will see.”
Her task on Saturday would have been daunting in Muguruza, who has a 3-1 head-to-head lead over Halep and last beat her 6-1, 6-0 in the Cincinnati final. Muguruza advanced on Friday with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Caroline Garcia.
But health is paramount for the players, particularly at the top where they can afford to make big decisions and still remain at No. 2 (Halep could have even returned No. 1 if Wozniacki had lost to Kerber).
Beating someone and then pulling out may seem like terrible sportsmanship, but Halep beat Bellis soundly (6-0, 6-4) and spares herself a poor performance or further injury against Muguruza. Right now, Halep is only thinking about what’s best for her season and, ultimately, her career.
The decision certainly didn’t come lightly, especially given the 26-year-old’s great history with Doha (she won the crown in 2014).
“It’s tough to withdraw in the semis. I think it’s first time when I do this,” Halep said. “It’s a great tournament, beautiful place. I play great tennis. So it’s very tough to stop because of the injury, but I have to, and I pushed enough myself this two months. So I have just to take it easy.”
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