Simona Halep’s lockdown life: military on the streets, the slower pace at home
Romania, an eastern European country of 21 million people, has been in a state of emergency since March 16 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Anyone over the age of 65 must stay at home while the rest of the country is only allowed to leave their home for essential purchases or work, provided they have a letter from their employer. A night curfew was also imposed.
“I’m not going out at all,” said Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion from Romania at CNN Sport from her home in Bucharest.
“I am definitely a person who takes these things very seriously and is nervous about them. The lockdown has been very strict here in Romania, we have had soldiers on the streets and we are not allowed to go out.”
Halep was born in the seaside resort of Constanta on the Black Sea, and her victory in 2018 at Roland Garros transformed the 28-year-old young woman into a superstar in Romania.
She received a huge homecoming after beating Serena Williams, winner of 23 singles tournaments, in the Wimbledon final last year, celebrating her victory with 30,000 fans at Bucharest National Stadium. She was even rewarded with her own postage stamp.
Halep is well aware that tennis is not the most important thing in the world right now.
“The situation has been frightening here in Romania,” said Halep.
“I try not to look too much or read too much in the news because I find this very disturbing; I prefer to focus on helping where I can,” said Halep, who donated medical supplies to hospitals in Constanta and Bucharest last month. “And play my part by staying inside, and of course by staying positive and strong.”
“We can only dream of playing a Grand Slam”
Although Halep has said that she misses the women’s tour, her colleagues and the tournaments, she is not optimistic that tennis will resume soon.
All professional tennis was suspended until July 13 at least due to the pandemic. Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since World War II, while the French Open, where it has been a finalist three times, has moved its start date from May 24 to September 20.
“I think if we play tennis again in September we have already won, because that means the threat from the virus will be over,” said Halep. “We can only dream of playing a grand slam at this point, but I support the tournament and of course I will be looking forward to playing if we can.”
The hardest part for Halep is the uncertainty.
“It’s really weird not knowing when we can play tournaments again,” said Halep. “On which surface are we going to play? In which country? There is no answer at the moment, so it’s hard to plan ahead.”
The coronavirus pandemic has forced Halep to slow down. For the first time in years, his schedule is no longer dictated by daily training sessions, trips to tournaments, sponsorship and media obligations or matches.
Instead, the double major winner now goes to bed late and gets up late, works out on a daily basis, cooks, reads, watches movies and talks to her family.
“It is really very strange not to have tennis in my life for such a long time,” she said. “The longest in my career.”
When the lockdown was announced by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on March 24, Halep was at his country club home in Bucharest, recovering from an injury.
“I’m lucky in a way because the situation with Covid-19 started just when I was suffering from a foot injury,” said Halep, who started the season off well with a half seat final at the Australian Open in January.
“So this extra leave gave me the opportunity to heal my foot well and take the time to work on my recovery, rather than worrying about missing too many tournaments.
“I’m always in touch with my trainer and of course my coaches Darren [Cahill] and Arti [Apostu-Efremov], too. I haven’t touched a ball yet, but I hope it will happen soon when the situation becomes clearer and the restrictions start to lift. ”
Romania’s state of emergency has recently been extended by a month until mid-May.
Like the rest of us, Halep is already making plans for the one thing she would most like to do once life gets back to normal.
“Definitely go out to a restaurant and order my favorite dessert,” she said.