Barty pulls out of US Open as sport con­tends with fresh Covid-19 fears

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tom Mor­gan and Tom Cary

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

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