World no. 2 and two-time Major champion Simona Halep will restart the season at the Palermo Ladies Open in August. Reigning Wimbledon champion is yet to decide about traveling to the USA, focusing on the European events on clay.
Palermo will host the first WTA tournament after the coronavirus outbreak in March, with Halep leading the field ahead of Petra Martic, Elena Rybakina, Marketa Vondrousova, Maria Sakkari, Donna Vekic and Dayana Yastremska.
The Romanian has played three WTA tournaments so far in 2020, suffering a tight semi-final loss at the Australian Open to Garbine Muguruza and winning the title in Dubai in February. Halep didn't play on the highest level at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships but it was enough to pass all the obstacles and lift the trophy.
A year ago, Simona claimed her second Major title at Wimbledon, ousting Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in 56 minutes, earning her first crown at the All England Club after a flawless performance. The Romanian was the player to beat in those two weeks, losing one set in seven encounters and toppling Victoria Azarenka, Cori Gauff and Elina Svitolina en route to the title clash against the tournament's legend and one of the best players ever.
Seeking the elusive 24th Major title, Serena had to settle with the runner-up prize for the second year in a row at the All England Club. Serving at 76%, Halep delivered one good hold after another, mounting the pressure on Williams and outplaying her in every department with smart and measured tennis that earned her biggest trophy.
Serena sprayed a forehand error in the first game to suffer a break. Simona moved 2-0 up with a hold at love, clinching another break with a backhand down the line winner. The Romanian saved a break chance in game six and closed the opener with a service winner at 5-2, taking a significant lead after 26 minutes.
Serena stayed in touch until 2-2 before a backhand error that pushed Simona in front.
Eager to lift the trophy as soon as possible, Halep landed a backhand down the line winner in the seventh game to open a 5-2 gap. Serving for the title in the next game, she held at love when Serena netted a forehand, celebrating the brightest moment of her career after a tough period in the previous 12 months due to injuries and lack of form, moving back inside the top-4.
"I'm thrilled to announce I will be back in Palermo after ten years. Hope to have a great week over there," Simona Halep said. Palermo tournament director Oliviero Palma said: "Halep's participation is excellent news, it had been decades since Palermo last hosted a former No.1. Our city is very devoted to world tennis, her presence is one of great interest for everybody."