Rafael Nadal on Wednesday said he still intends to play at the French Open next month and remains hopeful it will go ahead, despite withdrawing from the US Open due to coronavirus concerns.
Nadal also insisted the US Open will not carry an asterisk without its defending men’s champion, even if he admitted it will take place under “special circumstances”, with several top players expected to sit out.
The 34-year-old Spaniard’s withdrawal was confirmed shortly after the Madrid Open was cancelled on Tuesday, with a rise in coronavirus cases in Europe raising doubts around other events, including the French Open, which is due to start in Paris on September 27.
Nadal, who would be going for a record-extending 13th title at Roland Garros, was asked if he thinks the tournament will go ahead.
“I trust it will yes, it is in my mind and I am preparing for it,” said the 34-year-old in a briefing with international media on Wednesday.
“But we have to wait for events, to see how everything evolves because it is true that in recent weeks the situation seems to have worsened a little. But my hope and my intention would be to be there if conditions allow.”
Nadal also explained his decision to pull out of the US Open. “My heart says today is not the moment to take long travels without knowing exactly what can and cannot happen. My decision is to stay at home in Mallorca where the situation is good, it looks under control here, and to wait for future opportunities.”
Women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty has also chosen not to compete in New York, where a depleted entry list in both the men’s and women’s draws looks inevitable. Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are all still due to play.
“The tournament is still big, it’s a Grand Slam,” Nadal said. “I am not arrogant enough to say the tournament is not big because I am not playing. There will be important players.
“Of course it’s a tournament under special circumstances but still a Grand Slam and the winner will feel like the winner of a Grand Slam. It’s true it will be under special circumstances with a lot of important players not travelling there.”
Nadal added: “My words can have repercussions so it is difficult to say if it is the right decision or not, for some players it will be right for others not.
“I respect a lot the amount of work and positive intentions of the ATP and USTA (United States Tennis Association) to try to come back to the tour. I have taken my decision so you know my thoughts but I respect there are other players in different situations and they need to play because they have financial problems and need to earn money after a few months without income.”
Nadal also said lessons need to be learned after the “mistake” of the ill-fated Adria Tour in June, which was organised by Djokovic and led to several players, including the Serb, testing positive for coronavirus.
“I think most of the players want the best for the world and for people. Of course there was a mistake in the tour organised in Serbia and Croatia but mistakes are normal when you face a situation you haven’t faced before,” Nadal said.
“The players need to make decisions but I am not saying mine is the right one. Every decision can be right or wrong. We are facing unpredictable situations. I really hope people learn from the Adria Tour and we continue in the best way possible.”
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