Australia’s Kyrgios pulls out of US Open

SYDNEY • An emotional Nick Kyrgios (picture) pulled out of the US Open yesterday, for “the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their lives”, while pleading with players who attend to not be selfish and act responsibly.

His decision follows fellow Australian and world No 1 Ashleigh Barty last week withdrawing from the Grand Slam in New York, citing “significant risks” from the pandemic.

“Dear Tennis, I will not be playing this year at the US Open. It hurts me at my core,” Kyrgios, who has consistently called out fellow competitors for not taking the virus seriously enough, said in a video posted on Twitter.

“But I’m sitting out for the people, for my Aussies, for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their lives, for all of you.” More than 150,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US, with over 4.5 million infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

The opinionated Kyrgios, ranked just 40 but a major drawcard, last month blasted the Association of Tennis Professionals as “selfish” for pressing ahead with plans for the US Open, which is scheduled to start on Aug 31.

He tempered criticism of organisers in a passionate letter read during the video, saying he had “no problem” with it being held, citing the need to keep people such as restaurant workers, cleaners and locker room attendants in work.

But Kyrgios had strong words for some of the top names in the game, in a veiled jab at those who took part in Novak Djokovic’s recent ill-fated

Adria Tour exhibition, where there was minimal social distancing and players went nightclubbing.

“Tennis players, you have to act in the interests of each other and work together,” said the Australian.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck hosting an exhibition — that’s just so selfish.

“Think of the other people for once, that’s what this virus is about. It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have in the bank. Act responsibly.”

The US Tennis Association last Friday said they were confident in their safety plans for the event, which will take place in a bubble quarantine setting without spectators.

The tennis season has been at a standstill since mid-March due to the virus outbreak worldwide, with Wimbledon cancelled for the first time since World War II.

The men are set to get back under way at the Western and Southern Open, a tune-up event for the US Open from Aug 20-28 in a environment without spectators at Flushing Meadows.

World No 1 Djokovic, the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, and second-ranked Rafael Nadal, the current US Open champion, were among entries for that event, signalling their likely intent to play the Grand Slam.

Serena Williams was also confirmed, but missing from the entry list was Barty, world No 2 Simona Halep, the current Wimbledon champion, fifth-rated Elina Svitolina and last year’s US Open champion, sixth-ranked Bianca Andreescu. — AFP