In Brief

US Open 2020: women’s draw hit as six top-ten stars pull out

World No.2 Simona Halep is the latest player to withdraw from New York grand slam due to coronavirus fears

Defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal and five-time winner Roger Federer had already confirmed they will miss the US Open grand slam. Now six of the world’s top-ten women have decided not to play in New York either. 

World No.2 Simona Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion, announced on Monday she had opted out of the Flushing Meadows event, which takes place behind closed doors starting on 31 August. 

Coronavirus concerns have left many non-American players questioning the decision to travel to the US. Romanian Halep joins defending champion Bianca Andreescu, world No.1 Ashleigh Barty, Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Belinda Bencic on the absentee list. 

After winning the Prague Open on Sunday, 28-year-old Halep cited health concerns for her decision and said she would stay in Europe to train. 

Halep said on Twitter: “After weighing up all the factors involved and with the exceptional circumstances in which we are living, I have decided that I will not travel to New York to play the US Open. 

“I always said I would put my health at the heart of my decision and I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe.

“I know the USTA and the WTA have worked tirelessly to put on a safe event and I wish everyone there a successful tournament.”

Serena Williams French Open 2018

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Will no fans help Serena’s bid for title No.24?

With so many high-profile stars missing from the women’s entry list, it will give players such as world No.3 Karolina Pliskova and 2018 US Open winner Naomi Osaka a big opportunity in New York. 

American tennis icon Serena Williams will also be hoping she can finally win a 24th grand slam title and equal Margaret Court’s all-time record. 

The six-time US Open winner hasn’t won a grand slam since the Australian Open in 2017 and has lost her past four major finals - including the past two US Open finals to Osaka and Andreescu

With no expectant crowd, this could work in favour of the 38-year-old as she bids to make history. That’s the opinion of former world No.3 Pam Shriver. 

Speaking to the BBC Shriver said: “Serena has felt a lot of emotions at the US Open through the years, hence many a meltdown. This pandemic has really put a toll on a lot of people and a lot of people in your family, as far as how they’re feeling a lot more anxious. 

“If you’ve been through a lot, as Serena has, she might actually feel more comfortable playing under these circumstances than other athletes.”

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