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Top-10 players Svitolina, Bertens withdraw from U.S. Open

(Reuters) - Women’s world number five Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens, ranked seventh, on Friday joined a growing list of players withdrawing from this month’s U.S. Open due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Men’s defending champion Rafa Nadal and women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty have opted against travelling to New York to play the hardcourt Grand Slam as well as the Western & Southern Open that will work as a warmup for the U.S. Open.

“I understand and respect all the efforts they are putting to make it happen in a safe environment, but I still don’t feel comfortable to travel to U.S. without putting my team and myself at high risk,” Ukrainian Svitolina, who reached last year’s semi-finals in New York, said on Twitter.

The United States has close to 5 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 160,000 people have died, according to a Reuters tally.

“The situation around COVID-19 is still worrying and the health of everyone and the control over this virus is priority,” said the 28-year-old Bertens on Instagram.

The U.S. Open organisers (USTA) are creating a bio-secure ‘bubble’ in New York to hold the tournament from Aug. 31 without spectators. But concerns remain about whether players would face mandatory quarantines upon returning home from the U.S. Open.

Former world number one Andy Murray, who won the U.S. Open in 2012, said on Monday that players travelling to New York needed assurance that they would not face mandatory quarantines after returning to Europe.

“Our prime minister indicated yesterday that we should be quarantined for 14 days after coming back from the States,” Bertens said.

“Of course we respect this as a team and this would disturb our preparation for my beloved clay court tournaments in Rome and Paris.”

The Italian Open is scheduled to be held in Rome from Sept. 20 ahead of the French Open Grand Slam in Paris a week later.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christian Radnedge

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