Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has decided to withdraw from the U.S. Open citing safety concerns in relation to the novel coronavirus pandemic. New York, which hosts the Grand Slam, is one of the hardest hit states in the U.S.

Kyrgios' announcement comes at the heels of the withdrawal of women's world number one, Ashleigh Barty. The announcement from both Australian stars comes as a big blow to the tournament, which is hoping to be the first Grand Slam to be staged following the coronavirus-induced lockdown worldwide. The U.S. Open is scheduled to be played from Monday, August 31 until Sunday, September 13.

The French Open has been moved to the end of September, while Wimbledon has already been cancelled. Only the Australian Open having been successfully staged earlier this year, before the pandemic escalated.

The U.S. Open has been in doubt because of the situation in New York. Players are not keen on travelling to the United States, which is the hardest hit country in the world. To date, the U.S. has recorded over 4.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases with a death toll surpassing 154,000.

In a statement shared on Twitter, Kyrgios said, "It hurts me at my core…But I'm sitting out for the people, for my Aussies, for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their lives, for all of you."

The Australian had been openly critical of tennis events moving forward amid the pandemic. He was particularly vocal about condemning the Adria Tour, which resulted in COVID-19 infections for several players including world number one Novak Djokovic, who organised the event. Kyrgios threw shade at Djokovic, saying that those who played at exhibitions and partied at nightclubs have been selfish.

"Let's take a breath here and remember what's important, which is health and safety as a community," Kyrgios emphasised in his statement. "We can rebuild our sport and the economy, but we can never recover lives lost," he added.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray who had been sidelined for most of the past three years due to a persistent hip injury, says that he is willing to risk the trip to the U.S. for a chance to play at the Grand Slam.

Nick Kyrgios
Australia's Nick Kyrgios was one of the players to criticise Djokovic Photo: AFP / William WEST