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Barty pulls out of US Open due to COVID-19 concerns

World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty will not play at the 2020 US Open – and Andy Murray expects more top players to withdraw.

The US Open is scheduled to be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, but the WTA world no. 1 will not be leading the women’s field.

Australia’s Barty announced on Thursday that she will not be travelling to the USA for the US Open or the Western & Southern Open, the tournament to be played the week before in the same location.

Barty’s statement read:

‘My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to the US for the Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year.

‘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.

‘I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the US next year.’

There have been over 4.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the USA and over 150,000 deaths. It is the hardest-hit nation in the world. The state of New York alone has had over 400,000 confirmed cases and more than 30,000 deaths.

Barty was a glaring absence on the player entry list for the Western & Southern Open, and many Australian players have expressed doubts about the prospect of travelling to the USA.

 

It is rumoured that the US Open is set to announce its final decision about whether or not it is going ahead on Friday, although organizers have insisted that the tournament will happen even after the cancellation of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., due to be played two weeks before.

Andy Murray told media that he doesn’t expect Barty to be the last high-profile withdrawal.

 

Andy Murray has been in action this week at the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis event (PA Images)

 

‘I think we will see it quite a bit. I have heard some of the top male players aren’t going to play. I would expect that would be the case,’ Murray said, speaking at the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis tournament being played this week behind closed doors in Roehampton.

‘It’s everyone’s personal decision. If they don’t feel safe, and don’t feel comfortable, travelling and going there and putting themselves and their team at an increased risk, then it’s completely understandable.

‘All of the players will have some reservations and it’s whether or not you feel comfortable taking that risk. Like I said the other day, my feeling is once we are inside that bubble they created, we will be okay. It’s more the international travel, and getting there which I will be a bit concerned about it.’

The top two men’s players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, were both on the Western & Southern Open entry list, but that’s no particular guarantee that they will play. It’s certain that Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Stan Wawrinka, among other significant men’s players, will not be travelling to the USA.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova are among those who have committed to play the Western & Southern Open and US Open, but world no. 2 Simona Halep remains a question mark. The Romanian recently pulled out of the Palermo Open, citing rising COVID-19 numbers in her native country and anxieties about international air travel.

Players who do not travel to the USA might still compete at the French Open, rescheduled for 27 September-11 October. Barty, who won her maiden major at Roland Garros in 2019, said that she has not yet decided whether or not to travel to defend her title.

‘I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks,’ she said.