Defending champion Rafael Nadal said late on Tuesday that he will not play the US Open, citing concerns over the coronavirus. The Spaniard had won his 19th Grand Slam in New York last year, beating Daniil Medvedev in a five-set thriller.

The US Open in New York, scheduled for August 31 through September 13, will be followed a fortnight later by the French Open at Roland Garros. New York is a hotspot of Covid-19 in US, a country which tops the case count globally.

Australia’s world No 1 Ashleigh Barty and Nick Kyrgios had already withdrawn from the Major citing health and travel issues.

Doubts about Nadal’s willingness to play the US Open have swirled for months as tennis grapples with a calendar that has been decimated by pandemic disruption. In June, Nadal warned he would not consider playing the US Open unless he was satisfied conditions were “completely safe.”

With Nadal’s long-time rival Roger Federer already ruled out of the tournament as he recovers from knee surgery, the US Open will mark the first time since 1999 that neither player has featured in the main draw of a Grand Slam event.

With Nadal and Federer missing from New York, world number one Novak Djokovic will have a golden opportunity to land an 18th Grand Slam singles title.

Djokovic was named on the US Open entry list on Tuesday which included seven of the world’s top 10 players. Djokovic, a three-time US Open champion, will be joined by world number three Dominic Thiem, world number 5 Daniil Medvedev and sixth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Here’s how the tennis community on Twitter reacted to the news:

And on a lighter note....