London (AFP) – Matteo Berrettini was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon on Tuesday after testing positive for coronavirus as Serena Williams prepared to return to singles tennis after a year-long absence.
Elsewhere, on the second day of the Championships, Rafael Nadal begins his quest to win the third leg of a potential Grand Slam on the calendar and women’s seed Iga Swiatek begins her bid to win the tournament for the seventh time in a row.
Early action at the All England Club on Tuesday was overshadowed by last year’s runner-up Berrettini’s announcement that he was out of the event.
“I am heartbroken to announce that I need to withdraw from @wimbledon due to a positive COVID-19 test result,” the 26-year-old Italian wrote on Instagram.
Berrettini was widely regarded as one of the biggest threats to defending champion Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, as he won back-to-back grass-court titles at Stuttgart and Queen’s.
He is the second man to withdraw from Wimbledon with Covid in two days after 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic of Croatia also tested positive.
“I have no words to describe the extreme disappointment I feel,” eighth seed Berrettini said in his statement. “The dream is over for this year, but I will come back stronger.”
The Italian was a potential semifinal opponent for two-time champion Nadal.
His place in the first round of Wimbledon will be taken by Sweden’s Elias Ymer, a lucky loser of qualifying.
Wimbledon has returned to normal this year after the tournament was canceled due to Covid in 2020 and was played in front of a small crowd last year.
The All England Club said in a statement that protocols were maintained to minimize the risk of infection.
“We are following UK guidance on the assessment and isolation of any potential infectious disease,” the statement said.
“Our player medical team also continues to wear face masks for any consultation.”
The main focus on the show courts on Tuesday will be on seven-time champion Williams, who takes on unseeded Harmony Tan of France in her first singles match since injury forced her to withdraw from her first-round match. last year.
Williams, 40, won the last of her Wimbledon singles titles six years ago but reached the final in 2018 and 2019.
The American, who was awarded a wild card to this year’s tournament, is stuck on 23 Grand Slam singles wins, an agonizingly short of Margaret Court’s all-time record.
Nadal is halfway to winning all four majors in 2022 after his Australian Open triumph in winning his 14th French Open title.
No man has won every Grand Slam in a single year since Ron Laver in 1969, and Djokovic fell short last year when he lost in the US Open final.
The Spaniard’s victory at Roland Garros earlier this month took him to 22 Grand Slam singles titles, two ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Nadal won the most recent of his two Wimbledon titles in 2010, having captured the first with an epic triumph over Federer two years earlier.
There was a question mark over his durability during the two weeks at Wimbledon after playing the entire French Open with his troublesome left foot numb.
The 36-year-old second seed has since undergone a course of radiofrequency stimulation, a treatment aimed at reducing nerve pain in his foot.
“I can walk normally most days, almost every day,” said Nadal, who is facing Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo in his first match on Center Court.
“When I wake up, I don’t have this pain that I’ve had for the last year and a half.”
Swiatek’s last match was a comprehensive win against Coco Gauff in the French Open final, her 35th win in a row.
Wimbledon will test the ability of the Polish top seed to maintain the streak. Reaching the fourth round last year was her best performance in the tournament, even though she was junior champion in 2018.
Other players in action in the women’s draw include 2019 champion Simona Halep, who is the 16th seed this year, and last year’s beaten runner-up Karolina Pliskova.
On the men’s side, fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas faces Swiss Alexander Ritschard.
© 2022 AFP