WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Matteo Berrettini, a finalist at Wimbledon last year, withdrew from this year’s tournament Tuesday after testing positive for coronavirus.
Berrettini’s announcement of his retirement came just about two hours before he took to the court for his first-round match against Cristian Garin and was the latest blow to a Grand Slam tournament that was already shorter than usual in stars. and has been stripped of Ranking points for this edition by the male and female circuits.
Berrettini, who is undefeated on grass courts this season and seeded No. 8 at Wimbledon, was a top contender for the men’s singles title. His withdrawal came a day after another player, Marin Cilic, Croatia’s No. 14 seed and a 2017 Wimbledon finalist, also withdrew after testing positive.
The double withdrawal raised the possibility of an outbreak among the Wimbledon player pool, which is already missing several stars due to injuries and the tournament’s suspension of Russian and Belarusian players.
Berrettini and Cilic have been in contact in recent weeks with many players. Both played in the grass-court tournament at the Queen’s Club in London which ended on June 19, with Berrettini winning the singles title and Cilic reaching the semi-finals.
Both practiced at Wimbledon last week and used the dressing room reserved for the top seeds. Berrettini trained on center court Thursday with Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed. Cilic trained on center court with Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 seed.
Djokovic, who has said he remains unvaccinated against the coronavirus, won his first-round match on Monday, defeating South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo in four sets. Djokovic served particularly well, but was far from the best in other areas, looking low on energy in one stage and getting drenched in a change. On Tuesday, Nadal was scheduled to play at Wimbledon for the first time since 2019, facing Francisco Cerundolo in the first round on Center Court.
Wimbledon was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and it instituted strict restrictions last year, following British government guidelines. Coronavirus tests were required for players, support team members, and tournament officials and employees. But with the easing of government mandates this year, there is currently no testing required at Wimbledon.
In a statement, the All England Club said its policy is “in line with agreed practice across the UK”.
The club said some health and safety measures were still in place. “We have maintained enhanced hand cleaning and sanitizing operations and offer full medical support for anyone who feels unwell,” the statement said.
Masks are not required at the tournament, but the players’ medical team continue to wear them for any queries, and the club stressed that Wimbledon’s health and safety policies are regularly reviewed and could be updated.
But the tournament clearly has a problem, and it could get worse.
In total, five of the top 20 men were unable to play at Wimbledon due to bans, injury or illness. No. 1 Daniil Medvedev of Russia was barred from competing after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russians and their allies from Belarus prompted the tours to retaliate by removing ranking points from the tournament.
Ranked No. 2 Alexander Zverev will be out for an extended period after tearing ligaments in his right ankle at the French Open earlier this month.
There was also an early upset on Monday when Hubert Hurkacz, the No. 7 seed and a strong contender, was beaten in five sets in the first round by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Berrettini, a stocky 6-foot-6 Italian, missed several months of action earlier this season due to surgery on his right hand, his primary playing hand. But he returned for the grass-court season earlier this month and won back-to-back titles in Stuttgart and at the Queen’s Club.
“I am heartbroken,” Berrettini said in a post on his Instagram account announcing his retirement. “I have had flu symptoms and have been isolating myself for the past few days. Even though the symptoms were not serious, I decided it was important to take another test this morning to protect the health and safety of my fellow competitors and everyone else involved in the tournament.”
Berrettini and Cilic, like many of the top players, were staying in private lodgings at Wimbledon rather than one of the central London player hotels. Berrettini hadn’t been on site at the All England Club since Saturday and now, despite his thunderous serve and forehand, he will have to wait until next year.
“I have no words to describe the extreme disappointment I feel,” he said. “The dream is over for this year, but I will come back stronger.”
The 33-year-old Cilic has also made a comeback, beating Medvedev in the fourth round of the French Open on his way to the semi-finals. With his long reach, his great serve and his flat power from the baseline, he is dangerous on the grass and, like Berrettini, he was one of the players to watch in the bottom half of the game. male picture.
Cilic could have faced Nadal in the fourth round; Berrettini could have faced him in the semifinals. But now Nadal’s path, if he stays healthy, looks a little less daunting.