Rafael Nadal Won’t Defend Title at This Year’s US Open Due to Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic

Rafael Nadal is minding his health…

The 34-year-old Spanish professional tennis star and former world No. 1 has decided to skip this year’s US Open because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting on hold his bid to equal Roger Federer‘s men’s tennis record for Grand Slam titles.

Rafael Nadal

The defending US Open champion explained his decision in a series of tweets sent in Spanish and English.

“The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it,” Nadal wrote.

Nadal called sitting out the tournament scheduled to begin August 31 in New York “a decision I never wanted to take,” but added that he’d “rather not travel.”

The current No. 1-ranked woman, Ash Barty, already had announced she’d be missing the US Open. The USTA‘s entry list announcements Tuesday noted that 2019 women’s champion Bianca Andreescu is in the field — at least for now; players can withdraw until the start of play — but made no mention of Nadal.

The professional tennis tours have been on hiatus since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak, with play resuming for women on Monday in Palermo, Italy. The first men’s event on the main tour is scheduled for later this month.

Nadal’s announcement came shortly after the Madrid Open, scheduled for September, was canceled because of the pandemic.

In last year’s thrilling men’s final at Flushing Meadows, Nadal outlasted Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in 4 hours, 50 minutes. That gave Nadal four titles at the US Open and a total of 19 across all the Grand Slam tournaments, just one away from Federer’s career mark.

Federer will be absent from the US Open, too, but because of two operations on his right knee this year.

The last Grand Slam tournament contested without Federer or Nadal was the 1999 US Open — four years before Nadal made his debut at one of the sport’s four most prestigious events.

The USTA has given repeated indications it intends to go forward with the US Open, despite the spikes in cases around the United States, saying in a news release last week: “New York State continues to be one of the safest places in the country as it relates to the COVID-19 virus.”

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