Wimbledon, England – Matteo Berrettini, a finalist at Wimbledon last year, withdrew from this year’s tournament on Tuesday after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Brittini’s announcement of his withdrawal came just two hours before he was due to take to the field for his first-round match against Christian Garin and his last Grand Slam hit was already shorter than usual for the stars and he was stripped of the championship. Ranking points for this edition are by men’s and women’s tours.
Berrettini, unbeaten on grass this season and ranked No. 8 at Wimbledon, was one of the top contenders for the men’s singles title. His withdrawal came a day after another player, 14th seed Marin Cilic of Croatia who reached the 2017 Wimbledon final, withdrew after testing positive.
The double withdrawal raised the possibility of an outbreak among the group of players at Wimbledon, which had already lost several stars to injury and the championship. Russian and Belarusian players banned.
Berrettini and Cilic have been in contact with several players in recent weeks. Both played in the grasscourt tournament at Queen’s Club in London that ended on 19 June, with Berrettini winning the singles title and Cilic reaching the semi-finals.
Both trained at Wimbledon last week and used the locker room reserved for seeded players. Berrettini trained on Center Court on Thursday with second seed Rafael Nadal. Cilic trained at Center Court with top seed Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic, who said he is still not immune to the coronavirus, won his first-round match on Monday, defeating Kwon Sun-woo of South Korea in four sets. Djokovic did particularly well but was far from his best in the other areas, looking low on energy at one point and submerging himself in the water on the change. On Tuesday, Nadal was due to play at Wimbledon for the first time since 2019, facing Francisco Cerondolo in the first round at Center Court.
Wimbledon in 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic and strict restrictions were imposed last year, according to British government guidelines. Coronavirus testing was required for players, support team members, tournament officials and staff. But with government mandates relaxed this year, there is currently no need for testing at Wimbledon.
In a statement, the All England Club said its policy was “in line with agreed practice across the UK”.
The club said some health and safety measures were still in place. “We have maintained enhanced cleaning and hand sanitization and are providing full medical support to anyone feeling unwell,” the statement said.
No masks are required at the tournament, but the player’s medical team continues to wear them for any consultation, and the club has confirmed that Wimbledon’s health and safety policies are regularly reviewed and can be updated.
But the tournament clearly has a problem that could get worse.
In all, five of the top 20 players were unable to play at Wimbledon due to bans, injuries or illness. Russia’s No. 1 Daniil Medvedev was banned from competing after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Wimbledon’s decision to ban the Russians and their Belarus allies resulted in rounds retaliation by removing standings points from the tournament.
Second seed Alexander Zverev is out for a long time after tearing ligaments in his right ankle at the French Open earlier this month.
There was also an early upset on Monday when No.7 seed Hubert Hurkacz and his staunch opponent lost in five sets in the first round to Alejandro Davidovic Fokina.
Berrettini, a 6-foot-6 Italian, missed playing for several months earlier this season due to surgery on his right hand, his primary playing hand. But he returned to the grasscourt season earlier this month and won back-to-back titles in Stuttgart and at Queen’s Club.
“I’m heartbroken,” Berrettini said. A post on his Instagram account announcing his withdrawal. “I have had flu symptoms and have been in isolation for the past few days. Although my symptoms are not severe, I have decided that it is important to get another test this morning to protect the health and safety of my fellow competitors and all those involved in the tournament.”
Berrettini, like many high-profile players, was staying in a private residence at Wimbledon rather than one of the famous hotels in central London. He has not been on site at the All England Club since Saturday and, despite his resounding serve and forehands, will now 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.”
Cilic, 33, was also in good shape, defeating Medvedev in the fourth round of the French Open en route to the semi-finals. With his long reach, massive serve and flat core strength, he’s dangerous on the grass and was, like Berrettini, one of the players to keep a close eye on in the bottom half of the men’s draw.
Cilic could have faced Nadal in the fourth round. Berrettini could have faced him in the semifinals. But Nadal’s trajectory now, if he stays healthy, looks somewhat less difficult.
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