World No. 8 Belinda Bencic withdrew from the U.S. Open on Saturday, becoming the fifth of the top eight WTA players to pull out of the Grand Slam event in New York amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Bencic, 23, was a Grand Slam semifinalist for the first time in her career in last year’s event. She lost to eventual champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada.
“I have made the difficult decision to skip the US swing in New York and will return to the tour starting next month in Rome,” Bencic of Switzerland wrote on multiple social media accounts. .”.. I am looking forward to returning to New York next year and wish everyone competing there in the coming weeks the best of luck.”
The Italian Open, a French Open tune-up, begins Sept. 14.
Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia, No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, Andreescu (No. 6) and No. 7 Kiki Bertens of Netherlands previously announced they aren’t playing at the tournament that is set to begin on Aug. 31.
Svitolina also was a semifinalist last year, leaving ninth-ranked Serena Williams as the only 2019 semifinalist yet to withdraw.
Simona Halep still on the fence
As of Saturday, second-ranked Simona Halep of Romania is still on the fence per her intentions. She is expected to make an announcement in the next few days, perhaps after her Sunday title match in the Prague Open.
Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic is expected to play in the event. Fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin has stated that she will play in New York as well as the Western & Southern Open, the tune-up event that begins Thursday, also in New York.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 champion, is among the other women to pull out.
Barbara Haas of Austria moved into the main draw after Bencic’s withdrawal.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal is among the men’s players who withdrew due to the pandemic.