SYDNEY: The world’s No. 1 women’s tennis player Ashleigh Barty (pix) has withdrawn from the US Open, which is set to commence in New York in late August, due to coronavirus concerns.
The 24-year-old Australian, the 2018 US Open women’s doubles champion, told Australian Associated Press (AAP) in a statement on Thursday that she is not comfortable travelling during the pandemic.
“My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to the US and Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year,” Barty said in the statement.
“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.”
Barty is the biggest name so far to pull out of the grand slam, which is planned to go ahead behind closed doors from August 31 to September 13.
She is still deciding on whether she will compete in the European tournaments taking place late September-October. The French Open grand slam has been rescheduled to start in late September and some fans are expected.
“I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks,” Barty said.
Several other high-profile tennis players have expressed concerns over travelling to the United States – the country worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Germany’s Angelique Kerber said this month: “I cannot imagine it. I don’t think anyone wants to get in a plane and fly to New York.”
Kerber was missing on a list of entrants for the Western and Southern Open from August 20-28, which has been moved from Cincinnati to New York as a warm-up to the US Open.
Serena Williams, Madison Keys, Coco Gauff, Karolina Pliskova, Kiki Bertens and Garbine Muguruza are among those entered into the tournament and therefore seemingly also set to play the US Open.
Defending men’s US Open champion Rafael Nadal has also given his reservations while Novak Djokovic became infected in June with the novel coronavirus after playing in his own tournament specially organized to fill the gap without tennis during the crisis.
Before testing positive, the Serbian told Prva TV that the hygiene rules in New York would be too restrictive.
“We would have no access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in airport hotels, to test (for coronavirus) two, three times a week and we could bring just one person into the complex, which is simply impossible,” he said.
However, Nadal and Djokovic are registered for the warm-up event in New York and looked posided to play the grand slam.
This week world number 2 Simona Halep pulled out of the forthcoming Palermo Open in Italy due to quarantine rules, but also cited her “anxieties around international air travel at this time.”
The Italian event is the first on the women’s full professional tour since the pandemic caused its suspension in March.
The Romanian is also expected not to take part in the US Open. – dpa