Former world number one and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Victoria Azarenka on Thursday became the latest Grand Slam winner to withdraw from the Tokyo Games, citing “challenges from the pandemic.”
Azarenka, who also won mixed doubles gold alongside Max Mirnyi in 2012, as well as a bronze in singles, joins Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Dominic Thiem and Angelique Kerber in pulling out.
“I would like to inform everyone that I have made the very difficult decision to not play in the Tokyo Olympics,” the 31-year-old Belarusian wrote on Twitter.
“I have many amazing memories winning the gold while competing and representing Belarus in previous Games.
“But with all the challenges we are facing as it relates to the pandemic, I know in my heart this is the right decision for myself and the team.
“I look forward to returning to the 2024 Olympics in Paris to represent Belarus.”
Azarenka did not specify if a ban on family members entering Japan, which would have included her four-year-old son Leo, was a prime factor in her decision.
World number one and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic last weekend put his chances of playing in Tokyo at “50/50”.
The Olympics, already delayed by a year, get underway on July 23.
Kerber earlier said that “my body needs rest”.
“The thought of participating in the Olympics has been a constant motivation for me over the past few moths,” wrote Kerber, who is the highest ranked German at 22.
Kerber, 33, won silver in the women’s singles in the last Olympics in Rio, losing to Monica Puig in three sets in the final. She reached the quarterfinals in 2012 in London.
“London 2012 and Rio 2016 as part of the German team has always been one of my favorite memories,” she wrote on Twitter.
“That makes it even more disappointing for me to accept the fact that my body needs rest after the intense few weeks that lie behind me and that I have to recover first before returning to competition later this summer!” Kerber wrote.
She won the grass-court event at Bad Homburg on June 26 and then reached the semi-final at Wimbledon before losing to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty.
Dan Evans, the top-ranked British man, withdrew on Wednesday after testing positive for Covid-19.
(With AFP inputs)