WIMBLEDON, England — Matteo Berrettini, a finalist at last year’s Wimbledon, withdrew from this year’s tournament on Tuesday after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Berrettini’s announcement of his withdrawal came just two hours before he was scheduled to enter the court for his first round match against Christian Garin and was the final blow to an already shorter-than-usual grand slam by stars and was stripped of ranking points for that edition in the men’s and women’s tours.
Berrettini, undefeated this season on grass courts and seeded No. 8 at Wimbledon, was one of the top contenders for the men’s singles title. His withdrawal came a day after another player, Marin Cilic, seeded No. 14 from Croatia and a 2017 Wimbledon finalist, also withdrew after testing positive.
The double waiver raised the possibility of an outbreak among Wimbledon players, who are already missing a few stars due to injuries and a ban on Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament.
Berrettini and Cilic have been in contact with many players in recent weeks. Both played in the grass tournament at the Queen’s Club in London which ended on 19 June, Berrettini won the singles title and Cilic advanced to the semi-finals.
Both trained at Wimbledon last week and used the dressing room reserved for the seeded players. Berrettini practiced on center court on Thursday with second seed Rafael Nadal. Cilic trained on center court with top seed Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic, who said he was still not vaccinated against the coronavirus, won his first round match on Monday by defeating South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo in four sets. Djokovic served particularly well, but was far from the sharpest in other areas, looking weak at one stage and splashing water on the shift. 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 strict restrictions were put in place last year as directed by the UK government. Coronavirus testing has been required for players, cheerleaders, tournament officials and staff. But with the easing of government mandates this year, Wimbledon does not currently require testing.
The All England Club said in a statement that its policy is “in line with common practice across the UK”.
The club said some health and safety measures are still in place. “We support expanded hand cleaning and disinfection operations and offer full medical care to anyone who feels unwell,” the statement said.
Masks are not required at the tournament, but the players’ medical team continues to wear them for any consultation, and the club stressed that Wimbledon’s health and safety policy is regularly reviewed and may be updated.
But the tournament clearly has a problem that could get even worse.
Overall, five of the top 20 men were unable to play at Wimbledon due to disqualification, injury or illness. No. 1 Daniil Medvedev of Russia was barred from the competition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Wimbledon’s decision to keep the Russians and their allies out of Belarus saw the Tours retaliate by removing ranking points from the tournament.
Second-ranked Alexander Zverev is 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 No. 7 seed and strong contender Hubert Gurkacz lost in five sets in the first round to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Berrettini, the burly 6-foot-6 Italian, missed several months earlier this season due to surgery on his right hand, his primary playing hand. But he returned to the grass season earlier this month and won back-to-back titles at Stuttgart and at the Royal Club.
“I am heartbroken,” Berrettini said in an Instagram post announcing his departure. “I had flu-like symptoms and have been in isolation for the past few days. Even though the symptoms were not severe, I decided it was important to have another test this morning to protect the health and safety of my fellow competitors and everyone else in the tournament.”
Berrettini, like many top players, was staying in Wimbledon’s private sector rather than one of the players’ hotels in central London. He hasn’t been on the All England court since Saturday and now, despite his amazing 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 for this year is over, but I will come back stronger.”
33-year-old Cilic also got back in shape, beating Medvedev in the fourth round of the French Open en route to the semi-finals. With his long arm span, huge serve and flat base power, he is dangerous on grass and, like Berrettini, has been one of the players to watch closely in the bottom half of the men’s draw.
Cilic could face Nadal in the fourth round; Berrettini could have faced him in the semi-finals. But now Nadal’s path, if he stays healthy, looks a little less intimidating.
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