Nadal won’t defend US Open title in 2020

hannahwilks in US Open 05 Aug 2020
Rafael Nadal will nto be returning to the US Open in 2020 to defend his title (Photo credit: Sergei’ Vishnevskii’/Kommersant/Sipa USA)

Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the US Open in New York, declining to defend his title due to the global health crisis.

‘This is a decision I never wanted to take,’ world no. 2 Nadal wrote as he made his decision to withdraw from the 2020 US Open public.

The US Open will take place behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September. It forms a two-tournament ‘bubble’ with the Western & Southern Open, relocated from Cincinnati to New York for this year only and due to be played from 22-28 August.

Nadal won his third US Open title in 2019 when he defeated Daniil Medvedev in five sets in the final. But speculation has been rife for months that the Spaniard would not play at the 2020 tournament.

In a statement released on social media, Nadal wrote:

‘After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open. The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it.

‘We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after 4 months stopped with no play, I understand and thank for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen. We have just seen the announcement of Madrid not being played this year.’

Nadal had previously publicly committed to playing the Madrid Masters, which begins on the day of the US Open men’s final, signalling that he was prioritizing the European clay-court season over defending his US Open title.

It was officially confirmed on Tuesday that the Mutua Madrid Open had been cancelled due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain. The Rome Masters (20-27 September) and the French Open (27 September-11 October), at which Nadal is hoping to win an incredible thirteenth title, are still scheduled, with the French Open even planning to allow 60% of spectator capacity at Roland Garros.

Nadal went on:

‘All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV.

‘This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.’

Nadal is not the first player to decline to travel to the USA due to health anxieties. World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty cited ‘significant risks’ to which she declined to expose her team when she pulled out of the Grand Slam, and compatriot Nick Kyrgios followed suit, framing his withdrawal as a moral stance.

Roger Federer is also not playing the US Open, having shut down the remainder of his 2020 season down in July to prioritize a second knee operation. Among top-10 players, world no. 9 Gael Monfils also won’t be appearing in New York.

Nadal does not need to fear taking a hit in the rankings due to not playing the US Open. The ATP announced a revised rankings system a few weeks ago which means that he retains the 2,000 points he earned from winning the tournament in 2019 until the US Open is played again in 2021.

World no. 1 Novak Djokovic currently leads the men’s field, although entry for ranking players is automatic, so appearing on the player entry list does not guarantee that he will actually play.

Andy Murray has said that he hopes and intends to play the US Open, although he may need a wildcard to do so. Djokovic, Murray and world no. 37 Marin Cilic would be the only former champions in the field, with Stan Wawrinka joining Federer and Nadal on the list of players not appearing.

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