World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty yesterday pulled out of the US Open over “significant risks” from the COVID-19 pandemic in a major blow for the Grand Slam, which is scheduled to start in New York on Aug. 31.
The Australian is the biggest name so far to withdraw from the tournament, with her decision coming as COVID-19 deaths in the US topped 150,000.
“My team and I have decided that we won’t be traveling to the US for the Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year,” she said in a statement to Australian media.
“I love both events, so it was a difficult decision, but there are still significant risks involved due to COVID-19, and I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position,” she said.
“I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the US next year,” she added.
It was not unexpected from Barty, who last month expressed concerns about the US Open going ahead, and she won plenty of support on Thursday on social media for her “sensible” decision to give it a miss.
The 24-year-old, who last year surged to the top of the rankings and has stayed there since, said she would continue to monitor the situation before deciding whether to travel to Europe to prepare for a defense of her French Open crown.
“I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks,” she said, with Roland Garros due to start on Sept. 27.
Barty was one of several leading women players not on the entry list on Wednesday for the ATP and WTA Western and Southern Open, a tune-up event for the US Open from Aug. 20 to 28 in a quarantine environment without spectators at Flushing Meadows.
While Serena Williams was confirmed, others missing included world No. 2 Simona Halep, the current Wimbledon champion, plus fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina and last year’s US Open champion, sixth-ranked Bianca Andreescu.
Whether they play the US Open remains to be seen.
However, Japan’s Naomi Osaka is to play in the US Open, the 2018 champion’s management team said, despite reports that said she had not registered and had decided to skip the tournament.
In contrast, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, and second-ranked Rafael Nadal, the current US Open champion, were among the men’s entries, signaling their likely intent to play in the Grand Slam.
Also on the list was Australian Nick Kyrgios, who last month blasted the ATP as “selfish” for pressing ahead with plans for the US Open.
The opinionated Kyrgios has since waged a running battle on social media with some of the top names in the game who played at Djokovic’s ill-fated Adria Tour tennis exhibition last month, blasting their “stupidity” and risky behavior.
Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all tested positive for COVID-19.
The tennis season has been at a standstill since mid-March due to the pandemic, with Wimbledon canceled for the first time since World War II.
Calendars have been reshuffled with the WTA Tour scheduled to restart on Monday next week in Palermo, Italy.
The men are set to get back under way at the Western and Southern Open, one of the few times since the tournament began in 1899 that it has not been held in the Cincinnati area.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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