Vaccinated Halep no longer afraid of Covid-19

Filed on August 18, 2021
Simona Halep of Romania. (Reuters)

But Stefanos Tsitsipas said he would only get the vaccine if it became mandatory to compete

Former world number one Simona Halep says she is no longer afraid of Covid-19 after getting vaccinated and has called on others within the sport to get the vaccine to allow tennis to ease health and safety restrictions.

Halep, who turns 30 next month, did not travel to New York for the US Open Grand Slam last September due to the pandemic but then tested positive for the virus in October. She received the vaccine in February.

“I don’t feel afraid, because I am vaccinated,” Halep told reporters after her opening win in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

“I feel protected. I am taking care. I wear the mask when many people are around.”

Professional tennis, which requires players to jet around the world, was shut down for five months last year as countries locked down borders to stem the spread of the virus.

The tours returned to empty stadiums last year with players having to stay within biosecure ‘bubbles’ and continue to be played in front of a handful of fans at best. Both the ATP and WTA have recommended players get vaccinated and have put new protocols in place as incentives to get the jab.

“I don’t like the bubbles,” Halep said. “I feel very stressed when I’m in the bubble. “So if people can vaccinate more and more (it) will be better, because we will not have more restrictions anymore.”

Men’s world number three Stefanos Tsitsipas complained of the challenge of living in a Covid-19 ‘bubble’ after his early exit from Wimbledon in June. But the 23-year-old said at the weekend he would only get the Covid-19 vaccine if it became mandatory to compete.

While the men's ATP Tour has publicly encouraged players to get vaccinated, the 23-year-old Greek is among those who still have reservations.

"No one has told me anything. No one has made it a mandatory thing to be vaccinated," he told reporters when asked if he would seek a vaccine while competing in the US.

"At some point I will have to, I'm pretty sure about it, but so far it hasn't been mandatory to compete, so I haven't done it, no," added Tsitsipas, who received a first-round bye in the Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati.

The Covid-19 vaccine has divided opinion within tennis.

World number one Novak Djokovic said in April he hoped the Covid-19 vaccine would not become mandatory for players to compete and has declined to answer questions regarding his own vaccination status.

However, fellow 20-time Grand Slam winners Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal feel athletes need to play their part to get life back to some form of normality.

Federer said in May that he received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while Nadal said: "The only way out of this nightmare is vaccination. Our responsibility as human beings is to accept it.

"I know there is a percentage of people who will suffer from side effects, but the effects of the virus are worse.”

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