US Open: No defending champions for first time since 2003

Bianca Andreescu announced on Thursday that she will be skipping this year's US open

2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu

Bianca Andreescu pulled out of the US Open on Thursday, which means that for the first time in 17 years the Grand Slam will be played without either of the singles defending champions.

The 20-year-old Canadian, who has not competed since she suffered a knee injury last October at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, said that she wasn’t able to train or practice to hit top form due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“After many discussions with those closest to me, I have made the difficult decision not to return to New York this year,” Andreescu said in an Instagram post.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level.”

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In 2019, aged 19, Andreescu had denied Serena Williams history, defeating her in straight sets in the final of the US Open.

“The U.S. Open victory last year has been the high point of my career this far and I will miss not being there,” the World No 6 said.

“However, I realise that the unforeseen challenges, including the COVID pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

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2003 was the last time that the men’s and women’s defending champions missed the US Open. 2002 men’s champion Pete Sampras had retired by then and women’s champion Serena Williams was ruled out with injury.

The Canadian added to the growing list of pull outs at this year’s Open. With the Covid-19 situation in America not getting any better, a lot of players have decided to skip the hard-court Slam.

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Earlier in the month, 19-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal had said that he will not be defending his title at the US Open. 2016 champion Stan Wawrinka has also pulled out due to health and safety protocols while Roger Federer is sidelined for the season as he is recovering from knee surgeries.

In the women’s field, three top-10 players – Ashleigh Barty (1), Elina Svitolina (5) and Kiki Bertens (7)—have withdrawn from the major.

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The first Grand Slam to be played since the Coronavirus outbreak, US Open will be played behind closed doors from August 31. A number of health and social distancing protocols have been put in place for the players and organisers.

“I want to express my appreciation to the USTA and the WTA for all of their efforts in making the event happen,” Andreescu added.

“I look forward to joining my competitors back on court soon.”

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