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Bertens, Svitolina pull out of the US Open

hannahwilks in US Open 07 Aug 2020
Kiki Bertens announced she won’t be playing the 2020 US Open (Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Top-10 players Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitolina have announced that they won’t be playing the US Open in 2020, joining a list of high-profile withdrawals.

As the Grand Slam tournament, scheduled to be played behind closed doors from 31 August-13 September in New York, draws closer, two top-10 WTA players became the latest to pull out.

World no. 5 Elina Svitolina, a US Open semifinalist in 2019, announced her withdrawal on Twitter, writing:

‘Considering all the aspects, I have decided not to play the US Open 2020 … I still don’t feel comfortable to travel to US without putting my team and myself at high risks.’

 

Bertens posted a statement on her Instagram announcing that she wouldn’t be playing the US Open, explaining:

‘The situation around COVID-19 is still that worrying and the health of everyone and the control over this virus is priority.

‘Our prime minister indicated yesterday that we should be quarantined for 14 days after coming back from the states.

‘Off course [sic] we respect this as a team and this would disturb our preparation for my beloved clay court tournaments in Rome and Paris.’

 

Bertens has also withdrawn from the Western & Southern Open, usually played in Cincinnati but relocated to New York to form a two-tournament bubble with the US Open in 2020. The Dutch player won the title in Cincinnati in 2018.

World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty, her compatriot Nick Kyrgios and defending champion Rafael Nadal all pulled out of the US Open over the past week. Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Stan Wawrinka are among other players who won’t be appearing. On the other hand, Andy Murray has taken a wildcard, as has fellow former champion Kim Clijsters.

Travel restrictions, rather than having to comply with COVID-19 health and safety regulations, are likely to be the biggest stumbling block for most players who are trying to decide whether to make the trip to the USA or not.

Marca reported yesterday that the ATP top 20 had delivered an ultimatum to the ATP and USTA to guarantee that they would not have to quarantine for 14 days on travelling to Europe from the USA. This has not been confirmed.

The concern is that having to quarantine for 14 days, or any length of time at all really, would decimate the player’s chances at the French Open. After the cancellation of the Mutua Madrid Open, which was due to begin on the day of the US Open men’s final, there is now only one ATP Tour event scheduled between the US Open and the French Open – the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome from 20-27 September. With the French Open to be played at Roland Garros from 28 September-11 October, transitioning between surfaces and continents is going to be brutal enough – in Nadal’s words, ‘barbaric’ – without potentially having to quarantine for the entire fortnight between the two Grand Slams.

In addition to already being based in Europe, Bertens has won six of her ten career WTA Tour titles on clay including the Mutua Madrid Open in 2019, her biggest to date. She is 18-9 at the French Open, where she reached the semifinals in 2016, but has a poor record at the US Open where she has never been past the third round.

World no. 2 Simona Halep is among other top WTA Tour players who have yet to confirm that they intend to play the US Open. Halep pulled out of this week’s Palermo Ladies Open at which she was supposed to lead the draw, citing a surge in COVID-19 cases in her native Romania and ‘anxieties’ about international air travel, but has flown to the Czech Republic today for next week’s Prague Open.