Bianca Andreescu has stunned the tennis world, announcing she won’t defend her US Open title.
The reigning champion has become the latest big name to withdraw from the New York grand slam, citing coronavirus concerns.
‘EXHAUSTING’: Awful response to Bouchard's bikini photos
GOING AHEAD: Aus Open's plan for 400,000 fans amid virus crisis
The 20-year-old Canadian beat Serena Williams in straight sets in last year’s final, earning her maiden grand slam triumph.
However she said the coronavirus pandemic has impacted on her ability to sufficiently prepare for the tournament and therefore has elected to stay away.
Writing on Instagram, Andreescu said: “After many discussions with those closest to me, I have made the difficult decision not to return to New York this year.
“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 US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there.
“However, I realise that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”
It means the US Open will have two new winners after defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal also withdrew.
Andreescu also becomes the fourth player in the women’s top-10 to withdraw after World No.1 Ash Barty, No.5 Elina Svitolina and No.7 Kiki Bertens.
Other high-profile withdrawals include Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Fans took to social media in shock over Andreescu’s announcement.
Yeah, people are really not grasping this is about her not being healthy yet. A real shame how bad this injury is that even after 9 months she's not able to get back out there. I said it before I'll say it again, she really needs a second opinion on this injury— Jazmin (@Jaz_Barton) August 13, 2020
Good for her, the USA is insane, sick and getting sicker. It is important that “you people” understand the contempt the world feels for your country.— kbt (@KbtKevan) August 13, 2020
Totally understandable. America is an absolute mess. I wouldn't even go there in a hazmat suit.— ⚫PaulJ⚪🇨🇦 (@The_GeordieFox) August 13, 2020
What a shock Bianca Andreescu withdraws from @usopen .— I have no clue what to put here anymore. (@bramhabs98) August 13, 2020
i'm sick— bridge (@bridgesuite) August 13, 2020
Still can’t believe they’re going ahead with the US open 🥴🥴— 🤘🏽 (@DollyBoyy) August 13, 2020
Novak Djokovic confirms US Open participation
Earlier on Thursday, three-time champion and World No.1 Novak Djokovic reaffirmed that he will play the event despite initial reservations over the health protocols being implemented in New York.
“I'm happy to confirm that I’ll participate at #CincyTennis and #USOpen this year,” the 33-year-old tweeted.
“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.”
The US Open gets underway behind closed doors in New York on August 31, with Djokovic arriving in the United States on Saturday to tune up in the Western and Southern Open, which is normally played in Cincinnati but has been moved to New York this year.
Djokovic makes his competitive return after being heavily criticised for hosting a charity tennis event in the Balkans in June at which he and a raft of players tested positive for COVID-19.
I’m happy to confirm that I‘ll participate at #CincyTennis and #USOpen this year. 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 😃💪🏼 https://t.co/qgxSTHrKK4 pic.twitter.com/tg6rgwfFqm— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) August 13, 2020
Confirmation that he will bid for a fourth US Open title came after he initially expressed scepticism over strict protocols, describing limits on players' entourages at the tournament as “extreme” and “impossible”.
In a statement on his website on Friday he wrote: “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 NY.
“Nevertheless, I have trained hard with my team and got my body in shape so I am ready to adapt to new conditions.”
He said he had completed “all the check-ups”, was fully recovered from coronavirus and was “ready to get back on court fully committed to playing my best tennis.”
Serena has also confirmed her participation at the US Open, however five-time champion Roger Federer is missing as he recovers from knee surgery.