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Djokovic in, Andreescu out as US Open loses 2019 champions

BIANCA Andreescu, of Canada, reacts after defeating Elise Mertens, of Belgium, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

BIANCA Andreescu

NEW YORK (AFP) – Novak Djokovic boosted the US Open by saying Thursday he will play in the Grand Slam tennis event while reigning women’s champion Bianca Andreescu joined a host of notable no-shows.

Top-ranked Djokovic, a 17-time Slam singles champion, ended speculation by saying he would travel to New York on Saturday and play a tuneup event inside a COVID-19 quarantine bubble on the Flushing Meadows grounds ahead of the US Open start on August 31.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic (JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

“It was not an easy decision to make with all the obstacles and challenges on many sides,” three-time US Open winner Djokovic said.

“But the prospect of competing again makes me really excited.”

The 33-year-old Serbian will be the only member of the ”Big Three” at Arthur Ashe Stadium, with reigning champion Rafael Nadal — a four-time winner — deciding already not to defend his 2019 title and five-time champion Roger Federer out with a knee injury.

The three stars have won 40 of the past 51 men’s Grand Slam titles, including the past 13 in a row.

Nadal has won 19 men’s Slam crowns, one shy of Federer’s record, while Djokovic has won five of the past seven.

Britain’s Andy Murray, the 2012 US Open champion, will compete.

But also among the missing are France’s Gael Monfils, Italy’s Fabio Fognini, Swiss Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 winner, and Australian crowd-puller Nick Kyrgios.

The US Open will lack both reigning champions in Nadal and Canada’s Andreescu, who said Thursday she will not defend her crown because she has been unable to properly prepare, in part because of the pandemic.

Andreescu defeated Serena Williams, 6-3, 7-5, in last year’s US Open final.

”The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there,” Andreescu said.

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

She joins a women’s absentee list that includes Australia’s top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, Ukraine’s fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina, seventh-rated Kiki Bertens and past winner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.

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