Novak Djokovic to play US Open: 'I am ready to adapt to new conditions'

Top-ranked male player confirms participation following spate of high-profile withdrawals, including Nadal, Barty, and Kyrgios

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World No 1 Novak Djokovic confirmed on Thursday that he will take part in September's US Open, ending speculation regarding his involvement in the first Grand Slam tournament to be held during the coronavirus pandemic.

Djokovic, a three-time winner of the US Open, had previously cast doubts over whether he would participate in New York, claiming back in June the "extreme" measures required to safely stage the event made it "impossible" to commit.

However, the 33-year-old Serb released a statement saying he will be competing at Flushing Meadows and at the Cincinnati Masters the week prior.

“I am happy to confirm that I will participate at the Western & Southern Open and US Open this year," Djokovic said.

"It was not an easy decision to make with all the obstacles and challenges on many sides, but the prospect of competing again makes me really excited.

"I am aware that this time around it will be very different with all the protocols and safety measures that are put in place to protect players and people of [New York].

"Nevertheless, I have trained hard with my team and got my body in shape so I am ready to adapt to new conditions. I’ve done all the check-ups to make sure I am fully recovered and I am ready to get back on court fully committed to playing my best tennis."

Djokovic's presence is a welcome boost for US Open organisers, who have had to contend with a spate of high-profile withdrawals.

Reigning men's champion Rafael Nadal announced earlier this month that he would not be defending his title, because "Covid-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don't have control of it".

The Spaniard's withdrawal came days after Australia's Ashleigh Barty, the women's world No 1, and her compatriot Nick Kyrgios confirmed that they would miss the tournament.

Other top players to rule themselves out include men's world No 9 Gael Monfils and two more top-10 women: fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens (7). World No 2 Simona Halep said she would make a judgement call after her involvement in this week's Prague Open.

Swiss great and five-time US Open champion Roger Federer, meanwhile, will be absent after undergoing further surgery on the knee injury that had kept him sidelined during the early part of the season.

All players to withdraw have cited similar safety concerns about hosting a major sporting event in a region severely affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

New York state has been one of the worst-hit areas in the United States, with more than 450,000 total cases and over 32,000 deaths. According to the latest statistics, New York has more than 72,000 active coronavirus cases.

"I respect and appreciate everyone taking time, effort, and energy to organise these two events for the tennis players to be able to go back to their working field," Djokovic continued in his statement.


US Open 2019 men's final - in pictures


"Unfortunately for the players and the game itself, the current situation is not allowing everyone to travel and compete at the same level of risk, and I hope the situation will change soon and we will all be back to doing what we love and do best.”

Professional tennis went into lockdown in March as the threat of the coronavirus grew. In its absence, Djokovic spearheaded the Adria Tour – an exhibition series held in the Balkan region involving a number of top male players.

However, the series descended into chaos after Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov tested positive for the coronavirus before other players and officials also returned positive results.

Soon after the remainder of the series was cancelled, Djokovic and his wife Jelena also tested positive for Covid-19.

As the face of the tour, Djokovic received widespread criticism for not only staging the event, but for the apparent casual attitude towards the threat of the virus.

Matches were played in front of packed crowds, kids coaching clinics were held, and players were filmed partying at a busy nightclub, although no rules were broken after Serbia and Croatia - two locations for the series - relaxed coronavirus guidelines.

With the Adria Tour saga behind him, Djokovic, who will arrive in New York on Saturday, will be the strong favourite to win his fourth US Open title. His other victories came in 2011, 2015, and 2018.

Djokovic's long-time rival Andy Murray, who beat the Serb in the 2012 US Open final for his first major title, is also expected to participate in this year's tournament.

The Scot, a former world No 1, has been working to overcome fitness setbacks caused by the career-saving hip surgery he underwent in January 2019.

The coronavirus shutdown delayed his latest return but he boarded a plane bound for New York on Wednesday with the expectation he will be play the US Open.