Barty pulls out of US Open as sport contends with fresh Covid-19 fears
Ashleigh Barty, the world tennis No1, became the most significant name to drop out of a major event as global Covid-19 surges caused fresh concern that a host of international sports faced more disruption.
The 24-year-old, who soared through the rankings last year by winning the French Open and three other singles titles, pulled out of next month’s US Open, citing “still significant risks” as her reason to stay in Australia.
Her announcement came as concern was signalled in cycling over the likelihood of the Tour de France going ahead as planned. David Lappartient, president of the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, admitted that every race this season remained at risk of cancellation.
The comparatively successful returns of domestic football and cricket behind closed doors have distracted attention from evidence that sport remains blighted by uncertainty globally, with policies varying from country to country.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, warned this week there were signs of a “second wave” in Europe, and infection rates are rising again even more rapidly further afield. An increase of 10,000 Covid-19 deaths in 11 days in the United States is the fastest since early last month.
In golf, Lee Westwood has become one of the most prominent players to express concerns over travelling to the United States, pulling out of the PGA Championship, taking place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from Thursday.
With the 2020 Ryder Cup postWorld poned and the majors badly hampered, Rory McIlroy has also said he “doesn’t know” if he will compete in European events this year due to travel worries.
In tennis, after Wimbledon was cancelled, the withdrawal of Barty is a devastating blow for the US Open. “My team and I have decided we won’t be travelling to the US and Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year,” Barty said in a statement, and she is undecided on resuming her season in time for the French Open in Paris.
Nick Kyrgios, her compatriot, has also suggested he will withdraw from events, having been critical of world No1 Novak Djokovic for catching the virus during the Adria tournament he organised in the Balkans.
Snooker sees the return of spectators at the Crucible today for the World Championship, but there will be no Anthony Hamilton, who has pulled out in part due to his severe asthma.
With cases surging in Spain, a host of tournaments have been plunged into uncertainty. Uefa is ready to move the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals venues should the new flurry of cases mean it is not safe to play.
In cycling, meanwhile, five riders have been forced to pull out of this week’s Vuelta a Burgos, where Belgian sensation Remco Evenepoel took victory in yesterday’s third stage. Although the five did not test positive for Covid-19 themselves, they came into contact with people who did and were withdrawn by their respective teams, Israel StartUp Nation and UAE Team Emirates. The confusion led Jonathan Vaughters, the EF Pro Cycling manager, to describe cycling’s return in Spain as a “mess”.
On Wednesday, the UCI announced fines and other punishments for riders and race organisers who broke the protocols. “Every race is at risk, even the Tour,” Lappartient told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
In domestic sport in the US, MLS football matches have been postponed over positive tests among players, and a series of highprofile NFL and Major League Baseball players have opted against starting the new season until further clarity is offered, with rigid safety measures. Deaths from Covid-19 surpassed 150,000 in the United States on Wednesday, more than in any other country.
Significant risks: Ashleigh Barty will not be leaving Australia to play in the US Open next month