Halep wins Italian Open after Pliskova retires from final

Romania's Simona Halep poses with her trophy after beating Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova during their final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament. (Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse via AP)

ROME — Top-seeded Simona Halep won her first Italian Open title on Monday when 2019 champion Karolina Pliskova retired midway through the final with a left thigh injury.

Halep was leading 6-0, 2-1 when Pliskova stopped playing after just 31 minutes.

After Halep won the first set, Pliskova had her lower back treated by a trainer. Pliskova also had her left thigh taped during the match.

“Disappointed for me not to finish today,” Pliskova said during the trophy ceremony. “But Simo, obviously too strong. I always have to be 100% to play a good match against you. Congratulations for the whole week. I think you deserve the title.”

With the French Open starting in six days, Halep wished Pliskova a speedy recovery. She then added with a laugh, “Probably we will meet again there in the final.”

Both players wore face masks as they picked up their trophies themselves.

Halep, who lost the 2017 and 2018 Rome finals to Elina Svitolina, extended her perfect record in tennis’ restart to 10-0.

“In 2013 here I started to (reach) the top of world tennis,” Halep — now a two-time Grand Slam champion — said, recalling her surprise run to the semifinals that year. “Since then I started to play really well and finally, after two finals, I could win this title.”

The second-ranked Halep improved to 14-0 overall stretching back to February, when she won a title in Dubai. After the tour’s five-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Romanian returned by winning another trophy in Prague last month. She then skipped the U.S. Open because of travel and health concerns.

Due to the pandemic, a crowd of only 1,000 fans was allowed inside the 10,500-seat Campo Centrale stadium.

The tournament, which was rescheduled from its usual May slot due to the pandemic, also had reduced prize money.

Halep collected a winner’s check of 205,190 euros ($242,000) — down from the 523,858 euros ($616,000) awarded to Pliskova last year.

Later Monday, Novak Djokovic will face Diego Schwartzman in the men’s final.

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