Citing COVID Concerns, World No. 2 Rafael Nadal Won’t Defend US Open Title

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One of tennis’ marquee names will not be making the trip to New York later this month. Nineteen-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal announced he will not defend his US Open title, citing ongoing concerns over the coronavirus.

“After many thoughts, I have decided not to play this year’s US Open,” said Nadal, the world’s second-ranked player behind Serbian star Novak Djokovic. “This is a decision I never wanted to make but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I’d rather not travel.”

Nadal has not taken the court since February when he won the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, defeating American Taylor Fritz in the finals. After a five-month layoff, the ATP Tour will resume August 22-28 with the Western & Southern Open (usually held in Cincinnati) to be played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. The US Open, the second of three Grand Slam events in 2020 (Wimbledon was canceled while the French Open was postponed to September), will be staged at the same venue the following week. Nadal had hoped to compete in the Madrid Open in his native Spain next month, but that too was canceled.

“The situation is very complicated worldwide,” the 34-year-old explained Tuesday in a series of tweets. “The COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it.” With Nadal’s longtime rival Roger Federer also missing the US Open (he’s recovering from knee surgery), this will be the first Grand Slam event without both Nadal and Federer since 1999, according to Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press. Top-ranked women’s player Ash Barty will also be skipping this year’s Open.

Nadal will now have to wait until the French Open—or perhaps longer if he bows out of that as well—to chase his 20th grand slam title, which would tie Federer for the most all-time. The U.S. Open will begin August 31 with the finals slated for September 13 in Queens.

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