Rafael Nadal, currently ranked the number two men’s player in the world, will give up his spot to defend his 2019 U.S. Open win this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying “it looks like we still don’t have control” of the virus on Tuesday.
- Nadal, who has won the tournament four times, broke the news in a tweet Tuesday, coming hot on the heels of the Madrid Open being cancelled because of the virus just a few hours earlier.
- He called the pandemic “very complicated worldwide,” and appeared to be concerned about the growing number of cases.
- “This is a decision I never wanted to take,” Nadal said on Twitter. “But I have decided to follow my heart this time, and for the time being, I [would] rather not travel.”
- Spain, where Nadal is from, is counting upticks in new coronavirus cases after rolling back social distancing measures, but still isn’t anywhere near the level seen in recent weeks in the U.S., which is by far the worst-affected country on the planet.
- Prior to Nadal’s announcement Tuesday, the United States Tennis Association insisted in a statement last week that it has “developed a strong health and safety plan to mitigate the risk of infection within the contained environment comprised of the tournament site and player hotels.”
- New York “continues to be one of the safest places in the country as it relates to the COVID-19 virus,” according to the UTSA.
Nadal isn’t the first player to drop out of the U.S. Open, which is set to begin August. 31 and last into mid-September. The top women’s player in the world, Australian Ash Barty, announced she wouldn’t be competing in the U.S. Open last week because of travel safety concerns. Novak Djokovic, ranked the top men’s player, is currently slated to participate in the tournament according to a Tuesday UTSA statement, after recovering from being infected with coronavirus in June—he raised eyebrows months before when he said he would be skeptical of a coronavirus vaccine. Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are also still set to compete, according to a USTA statement Tuesday.