World No 1 Ashleigh Barty has withdrawn from the US Open because she is not comfortable travelling during the coronavirus pandemic, and feels it is not worth the risk.
My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to Western & 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. Ash Barty
Barty is the biggest name to opt out of the hard court Grand Slam due to begin on 31 August in New York behind closed doors and with strict health procedures in place.
“My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to Western & Southern Open and the US Open this year,” Barty said in a statement to Australian Associated Press on Thursday. “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.”
Barty added that she has yet to decide on whether to play the French Open in Paris the clay court major at which she is the defending champion.
Roland Garros was postponed earlier in the year and rescheduled to start on 27 September with a reduced number of spectators.
“I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments, and I look forward to being back in the US next year,” Barty said.
“I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks.”
Barty is expected to be the first of several leading players who decide not to risk travelling to the United States to take part in the hardcourt season.
The Southern & Western Open has been moved from Cincinnati to New York City where USTA officials plan to create a biosecurity hub for 3 weeks.
Along with Barty, other notable players yet to confirm plans to take part in the Cincinnati Masters are Japan’s 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka and Romania’s 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon winner Simona Halep.
Canada’s defending US Open champion. Bianca Andreescu has also yet to declare her intentions.
It is difficult for Barty to travel overseas under current circumstances because Australia has closed its international borders, and leaving the country requires permission from the Australian government while flight options are limited, plus everyone returning home has to spend 2 weeks in quarantine.
There have been rumblings about who will be prepared to make the trip to New York and on Wednesday, the first official glimpse of the entry list was released.
Ten former event champions highlighted the initial fields, led by Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Williams, a 23-time major title holder, is lined up for a busy August, is set to play the week of 10 August at the WTA’s first event in Kentucky, Lexington’s Top Seed Open, and previously had the US Open’s new Laykold surface sent to her home for training.
Djokovic has also been seen practicing on the hard courts at Janko Tipsarevic’s Academy in Belgrade, and ordered the official US Open ball in preparation.
While Nadal’s name appears on the list, his participation remains questionable as he has been training on clay and is confirmed by Feliciano Lopez to be entered in Madrid, which begins immediately after the US Open.
With neither tour penalising players for withdrawing from events, a lot could change over the coming weeks as players keep an eye on COVID-19 trends in the US and elsewhere.
In addtion to Barty, notably absent from the Western & Southern Open entry list are World No 2 Simona Halep, the 2019 Wimbledon champion and No 6 Bianca Andreescu, the reigning US Open winner.
Halep was due to headline the WTA tournament in Palermo but travel anxieties and a rise in coronavirus cases caused the Romanian to withdraw.
Two-time major champion Naomi Osaka and 3-time men’s Slam holder Stan Wawrinka were among the other players who have opted out of the Western & Southern Open, but those not signed up could still compete by requesting a wild card as the event nears.
Other former Cincinnati winners in the line-up include the defending champions Daniil Medvedev and Madison Keys, Garbiñe Muguruza, Marin Cilic, Karolina Pliskova and Kiki Bertens.
The tournament is scheduled to begin on 20 August with qualifying, where 12 players will advance to each respective main draw and, as of 29 July, includes 16 ATP and 14 WTA Top 20 players.