World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to play at U.S. Open; Bianca Andreescu pulls out

Aug. 13 (UPI) — Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked tennis player in the world, announced Thursday he will compete in this month’s Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open in New York.

Djokovic, who tested positive for the coronavirus in June, previously complained about the U.S. Tennis Association’s protocols designed to protect individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly its restrictions on the size of players’ entourages. Due to the limitations, the Serbian said he was unsure whether he would participate.

“It was not an easy decision to make with all the obstacles and challenges on many sides, but the prospect of competing again makes me really excited,” Djokovic said in a statement. “During my career, I have played some of my best matches at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“I am aware that this time around it will be very different with all the protocols and safety measures that are put in place to protect players and people of N.Y. Nevertheless, I have trained hard with my team and got my body in shape so I am ready to adapt to new conditions. I’ve done all the check-ups to make sure I am fully recovered and I am ready to get back on court fully committed to playing my best tennis.”

Djokovic has won three of his 17 career Grand Slam titles at the U.S. Open and has been the runner-up at the tournament five times. By deciding to play, he will have the opportunity to close the gap between him and the only two men’s players with more major trophies: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Federer, who has captured 20 Slam championships, is expected to miss the remainder of the 2020 season after undergoing two knee surgeries. Nadal, who holds 19 major titles and won last year’s U.S. Open, said earlier this month he was pulling out of the 2020 U.S. Open because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Bianca Andreescu — the defending women’s champion in singles play at the event — will skip the U.S. Open because of the pandemic. Andreescu, who hasn’t played on tour since October, is the fourth woman in the top seven in the WTA rankings to pull out of the tournament, joining No. 1 Ash Barty, No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 7 Kiki Bertens.

“After many discussions with those closest to me, I have made the difficult decision not to return to New York this year,” Andreescu said in a statement. “I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level.”

The U.S. Open is scheduled to start Aug. 31, without spectators. Before that event, the Western & Southern Open — typically held in Cincinnati, Ohio — will be played Aug. 22 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.

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