NEW YORK: World number two Simona Halep of Romania will not travel to New York to play in the U.S. Open due to COVID-19 concerns, she said on Monday, leaving the women’s draw at the Grand Slam tournament without six of the world’s top-10 players. Romanian Halep joined world number one Ash Barty, defending champion Bianca Andreescu, Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Belinda Bencic in skipping the event at Flushing Meadows. “After weighing up all the factors involved and with the exceptional circumstances in which we are living, I have decided that I will not travel to New York to play the U.S. Open,” Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion, wrote on Twitter. “I always said I would put my health at the heart of my decision and I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe. I know the USTA and WTA have worked tirelessly to put on a safe event and I wish everyone there a successful tournament.” Halep, 28, won the Prague Open over the weekend — her first event since COVID-19 pandemic shut down tennis in March — and said she would announce her decision about playing in the U.S. Open on Monday. The U.S. has become the world’s biggest hotspot for the novel coronavirus, recording over 5.4 million cases and more than 170,000 deaths, according to a tally. The U.S. Open, due to start on Aug. 31, will be played behind closed doors and Halep’s absence is another blow to organisers following a spate of withdrawals.