The 2020 US Open Tennis Championships have been dealt with a fresh blow after defending champion Rafael Nadal announced that he won't be joining the event.

Nadal had previously committed to play at the 2020 Mutua Madrid Open. The Spanish event was originally scheduled to start just a day after the conclusion of the US Open which is scheduled on August 31-September 13, 2020. Even without an official announcement, the congested schedule made it clear that Nadal was in doubt for the US Open if he was going to play in Madrid and the subsequent French Open while also adhering to quarantine protocols..

However, the Madrid Open was officially cancelled earlier this week due to the second wave of coronavirus cases that are being reported in Spain. As such, fans became hopeful that Nadal might decide to defend his US Open title.

The hopes were short-lived after the Mallorcan decided not to participate saying that the coronavirus situation is not under control. In a series of tweets, Nadal explained his decision. "After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year's US Open. The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don't have control of it," he said.

Despite his decision not to participate, Nadal thanked the organisers for making the tremendous effort of putting up the event. The US Open is only the second Grand Slam in 2020 after the Australian Open. Roland Garros has been postponed while Wimbledon has been cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open. The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it.

— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) August 4, 2020

"All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV," he said.

The current world number two also shared a photo from last year's trophy presentation. "This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel."

Meanwhile, world number one Novak Djokovic leads the list of players who have committed to play. American star Serena Williams has also said that she will participate. However, women's world number one Ashleigh Barty has withdrawn from the event. Likewise, fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios announced his withdrawal earlier this week.

With numerous players citing safety concerns, it remains to be seen if the event will eventually push through. Players are particularly concerned about travelling to the United States, which has so far recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases and the highest death toll worldwide.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal, the defending champion at the US Open, has decided not to play in New York in 2020 AFP / Johannes EISELE