Simona Halep became one of the first active tennis players to get the Covid-19 vaccine when the 29-year-old received her first dose on Wednesday at the Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest.
There were emotions, but I came with an open mind and I'm fine now. I wanted to get vaccinated. I was vaccinated with Pfizer. I believe that this vaccine is for the good of all and that is why I decided to make it. I’m fine, I haven’t had any side effects now. It’s for everyone’s sake and that’s why I decided to get vaccinated. Simona Halep
Romania’s vaccine tzar said he hoped that her getting a jab would encourage other Romanians to follow her example.
“There were emotions, but I came with an open mind and I’m fine now,” she said after getting the shot. “I wanted to get vaccinated.
“I was vaccinated with Pfizer. I believe that this vaccine is for the good of all and that is why I decided to make it.
“I’m fine, I haven’t had any side effects now. It’s for everyone’s sake and that’s why I decided to get vaccinated.”
The World No 3 qualifies for the vaccine because of her status as an Olympic athlete.
“I hope more and more people get vaccinated. I also have to do the repeat, this reassures me, I am safer after this vaccine.
“But I will still be extremely careful. If it’s the only way to get rid of the pandemic, it’s good to get the vaccine.”
Halep contracted Covid-19 in October after skipping the US Open in New York and losing in the fourth round of Roland Garros.
She reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this month, losing to Serena Williams, and has withdrawn from next week’s WTA 500 in Doha.
According to the Romanian guidelines, she will need to get her second dose during the week of 15 March, meaning she could still play Dubai in two weeks time.
“I plan to play Dubai,” Halep said. “I am recovering now and I hope to be present there,” Halep added.
She also confirmed that she will be present at the Olympic Games: “I 100% want to go to the Olympics and do a good job.
“Yes, people are talking more and more about the Olympics. I really want the medal, I hope to win at least one, whichever it may be, and to enjoy the moment there.
“I hope it won’t be difficult, like it was in Australia [quarantine], because it was a bit hard.
“So my goal for this year is, of course, a Grand Slam, I started to like it, and my priority is the Olympics.
“I really want a medal. Doesn’t matter which one or where, like singles, doubles, mixed. I just want one. I will do everything I can to do that,” Halep said during a press conference in 2020.
Vaccine coordinator Valeriu Gheorghita was at the vaccine centre on Wednesday morning when she got her jab and he gave her a bouquet of white roses and purple flowers after she had received her shot.
“I wanted to thank her for everything she’s done for our country; she’s an important ambassador of Romania worldwide,” he said. “And I appreciate her for publicly saying she’d like to get inoculated.
“It’s important for everyone who gets the vaccine, just by doing it, can persuade other people to get shots… so we can reach our goal of 70% of people vaccinated.”
Halep has dropped down a spot in the WTA rankings, from No 2 to No 3, and was asked by reporters if the global ranking matters to her.
“It matters less, the year is young. I have a lot of tournaments ahead and I hope to play well during each tournament, just as I did in Australia.”
Not everyone is as positive as Halep on the issue of vaccinations.
After winning his 9th Australian Open title on Sunday, Novak Djokovic was asked by 7NEWS Australia what he felt about the COVID-19 vaccine becoming mandatory to play on the pro tours.
“Let’s see what happens,” he said. “There’s been a lot of discussion about that but nothing is yet concretely set about that or there aren’t any regulations or rules in place from ATP or from Slams.
So I’m just going to wait and see.
“Right now it’s all a debate and it’s all in the air, so I don’t want to make any comment about something that is not yet complete.”
The Serbian has in the past been known for his opposition to vaccines, and was slammed for organising a tennis event at the height of the pandemic that resulted in himself and several other players testing positive for the Covid-19.
The ATP Tour is weighing up whether to make vaccinations compulsory for male players if they wish to compete in sanctioned events.
Pressed on whether he would be willing to get vaccinated, Djokovic remained cagey in response, while his incredible triumph on Sunday was somewhat sullied during the trophy presentation, as fans in the Rod Laver Arena booed Tennis Australia chair Jayne Hrdlicka during the course of her speech when she spoke about vaccinations being rolled out around the world, and the hope it offers millions of people.
The negative reaction from some fans about the mention of vaccines sparked outrage on social media, and it was a topic of discussion for Djokovic during his post-match interviews.
“It was definitely not an easy situation to be in for Head of TA. I empathise with her,” Djokovic said. “I thought she did very well under those circumstances and conditions, it was definitely not easy to stay composed but she did.
“She ended her speech in a very good manner.”
Djokovic was not too optimistic about when the pandemic will end.
“There’s a lot of mixed opinions and mixed emotions about everything that is happening in the world today,” he said.
“People want to go back to their normal lives, it’s normal in a way that you see and hear the frustrations.
“It doesn’t look like the end is near, especially in Europe in terms of sports events and having the crowd on the stands.”