Defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal has decided to pull out of the upcoming US Open, citing COVID-19 concern. The Grand Slam in Flushing Meadows is set to be played from August 31 to September 13.

“After many thoughts, I have decided not to play this year’s US Open,” Nadal said on Twitter on Tuesday. “The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it.”

“We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after 4 months stopped with no play, I understand and thank for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen,” the 19-time Grand Slam champion added.

“All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV.

“This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel,” the world number two said.

Nadal has become the third man among the top 10 singles player to cast his name out of this year’s US Open. Meanwhile, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic headlines the initial men’s singles entry list for the US Open, the organisers have announced.

Djokovic, a three-time US Open champion, leads an entry list that includes seven of the world’s Top 10 men, who are set to compete at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York.

Djokovic will be joined by Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tstisipas, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin.

World number 4 and five-time US Open champion Roger Federer had previously withdrawn his name from all the remaining competition that will be held this year due to an injury on right knee.

India’s Sumit Nagal, ranked No. 127, is the last man to receive direct entry into the field of 128.

In women’s part, nine of the top 10 will feature the initial singles entry list. The field is led by world No.2 Simona Halep, No.3 Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin, Elina Svitolina and defending champion Bianca Andreescu. World No.9 Serena Williams, a six-time US Open and 23-time Grand Slam champion, will also play the major event.

With IANS inputs