Defending champion Rafa Nadal is the latest high-profile player to withdraw from the US Open. The tournament released its entry field and the men’s line up has seven of the top ten and the women have nine of the top ten.
Mr. Nadal, the world No.2, joins world No.1 Ash Barty from last week in citing COVID-19 reasons for not going to the Open.
“After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open,” Rafa Nadal said in a statement. “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.
“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.”
Mr. Nadal, who defeated Daniil Medvedev in a brilliant and dramatic five set final last year, becomes the first reigning men’s champion at the US Open not to defend the title since Stan Wawrinka in 2017 and he is the first at any major in that situation also since Mr. Wawrinka, again at the US Open that same year.
Stan himself is not playing this year with Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini being others to sidestep New York.
With Roger Federer bypassing the Open through injury, it marks the first time since the US Open in 1999 that both the Swiss and the Spaniard have not been in the main draw of a major. Interestingly in 1999 Mr. Federer lost in the first round of qualifying to a Dutch player named Edwin Kempes.
Could these withdrawals open the door for Novak Djokovic, who was undefeated this year when coronavirus suspended the tennis tour, to step closer to Roger and Rafa for the number of career majors? The tally so far is 20 Roger, 19 Rafa, 17 Novak.
The top eight men’s seeds will be 1. Novak Djokovic, 2. Dominic Thiem, 3. Daniil Medvedev 4. Stefanos Tsitsipas, 5. Alexander Zverev, 6. Matteo Berrettini, 7. David Goffin, 8. Roberto Bautista Agut.
Miss Barty’s withdrawal marks the first time the women’s world No.1 has not played a major since the 2010 US Open when Serena Williams was injured. On the women’s side of the event the Australian's sees the top eight seeds as: 1. Simona Halep, 2, Karolina Pliskova, 3. Sofia Kenin, 4. Elina Svitolina, 5. Defending champion Bianca Andreescu, 6. Kiki Bertens, 7. Belinda Bencic, 8. Serena Williams.
The vast majority of attention will be on Miss. Williams as she attempts to win a record equalling 24th major. The American has reached four major finals since returning after childbirth almost three years ago and has lost each time, including the last two US Open finals in straight sets to Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu respectively.