Mon, Jul 18, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Berdych, Pliskova pull out of Games

AFP, PRAGUE

The Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych returns to Britain’s Andy Murray in their Wimbledon semi-final match in London on July 8.

Photo: AFP

Czech tennis stars, world No. 8 Tomas Berdych and 16th-ranked Karolina Pliskova, on Saturday joined the growing band of players pulling out of the Rio Olympics due to concerns over the Zika virus. Their decision came just a day after top 10 stars Milos Raonic and Simona Halep also withdrew over similar health fears.

“I am very sorry to announce that I will not take part in this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Berdych, the 30-year-old Wimbledon semi-finalist, said on Twitter.

“It is because of the Zika virus’ spread in the country of the Olympics,” he said. “As I have founded a family recently, to limit health risks toward my nearest is the utmost priority.”

Berdych, who married model Ester Satorova last year, had also pulled out of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup tie with France, in which the Czechs are trailing 2-1 after Saturday’s rubbers.

The 24-year-old Pliskova told the Czech news agency she was pulling out for the same reason as Berdych.

“I share the concerns about the possible effects of catching the Zika virus,” she said.

Their decision will not please Radek Stepanek, who was due to form a doubles pair with time-tested Davis Cup teammate Berdych in Rio, and Lucie Safarova, snubbed by Pliskova, who might now team up with Barbora Strycova for doubles.

Berdych and Pliskova follow a host of other tennis stars who are skipping Rio over the Zika scare.

On Friday, Wimbledon runner-up and world No. 7 Raonic, as well as Romania’s world No. 5 Halep, the 2014 French Open runner-up, said they would not make the trip to Rio.

Canadian star Raonic, who was defeated by Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final on Sunday last week, said he had taken the decision “with a heavy heart.”

The US’ John Isner, Austria’s Dominic Thiem, Australian duo Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios, as well as Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, have all opted not to take part in the Olympics.

Italy’s former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone has turned down the opportunity, while former world No. 1s Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka will also be missing.

Sharapova is serving a doping suspension, while Azarenka announced on Friday that she is pregnant and would not compete again this year.

Eccentric Latvian player Ernests Gulbis described the Rio event as “tennis tourism” as the Olympics do not offer either prize money or ranking points.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Saturday moved to reassure players and fans over the threat posed by Zika at the Olympics, which start on Aug. 5.

“While we understand and respect the concerns over the Zika virus, the IOC has assured us that all precautions will be taken to limit the risk to athletes, officials and fans,” ITF president David Haggerty said.

Fears over Zika have already seen the image of the golf event in Rio badly tarnished with the sport’s top four players all choosing not to play.

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