WIMBLEDON, England — Matteo Berrettini, a finalist at Wimbledon last year, withdrew from this year’s tournament on Tuesday after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Berrettini’s announcement of his withdrawal came only about two hours before he was to take to the court for his first-round match against Cristian Garin and was the latest blow to a Grand Slam tournament that was already shorter than usual on stars and has been stripped of ranking points for this edition by the men’s and women’s tours.
Berrettini, who is undefeated on grass courts this season and seeded No. 8 at Wimbledon, was one of the leading contenders for the men’s singles title. His withdrawal came one day after another player, Marin Cilic, the No. 14 seed from Croatia and a 2017 Wimbledon finalist, also withdrew after testing positive.
The dual withdrawal raised the prospect of an outbreak among the player group at Wimbledon, which is already missing several stars because of injury and the tournament’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players.
Berrettini and Cilic have been in contact in recent weeks with many players. Both played at the grass-court tournament in Queen’s Club in London that ended on June 19, with Berrettini winning the singles title and Cilic reaching the semifinals.
Both practiced at Wimbledon last week and used the locker room reserved for seeded players. Berrettini trained on Centre Court on Thursday with Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed. Cilic trained on Centre Court with Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 seed.
Djokovic, who has said that he remains unvaccinated for the coronavirus, won his first-round match on Monday, defeating Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea in four sets. Djokovic served particularly well but was far from his sharpest in other areas, looking low on energy at one stage and dousing himself with water on a changeover. On Tuesday, Nadal was scheduled to play at Wimbledon for the first time since 2019, facing Francisco Cerundolo in the first round on Centre Court.
Wimbledon was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic and instituted strict restrictions last year, following British government guidelines. Coronavirus testing was required for players, support team members and tournament officials and employees. But with the loosening of government mandates this year, no testing is currently required at Wimbledon.
In a statement, the All England Club said that its policy is “in keeping with agreed practice across all of the U.K.”
The club said some health and safety measures were still in place. “We have maintained enhanced cleaning and hand sanitizing operations and offer full medical support for anyone feeling unwell,” the statement said.
No masks are required at the tournament, but the player medical team is continuing to wear them for any consultations, and the club emphasized that Wimbledon’s health and safety policies were regularly under review and could be updated.
But the tournament clearly has a problem, which could get bigger.
In all, five of the top 20 men were unable to play at Wimbledon because of bans, injuries or illness. No. 1 Daniil Medvedev of Russia was blocked from competing after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Wimbledon’s decision to bar Russians and their allies from Belarus led to the tours retaliating by removing ranking points from the tournament.
No. 2 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 Hubert Hurkacz, the No. 7 seed and a strong contender, was beaten in five sets in the first round by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Berrettini, a strapping 6-foot-6 Italian, missed several months of action earlier this season because of surgery on his right hand, his primary playing hand. But he returned for the grass-court season earlier this month and won consecutive titles in Stuttgart and at Queen’s Club.
“I am heartbroken,” Berrettini said in a post on his Instagram account announcing his withdrawal. “I have had flu symptoms and been isolating the last few days. Despite symptoms not being severe, I decided it was important to take another test this morning to protect the health and safety of my fellow competitors and everyone else involved in the tournament.”
Berrettini and Cilic, like many of the leading players, were staying in private accommodations in Wimbledon rather than in one of the player hotels in central London. Berrettini had not been on site at the All England Club since Saturday and now, despite his thunderous serve and forehand, will have to wait until next year.
“I have no words to describe the extreme disappointment I feel,” he said. “The dream is over for this year, but I will be back stronger.”
Cilic, 33, also has been in resurgent form, overwhelming Medvedev in the fourth round of the French Open on his way to the semifinals. With his long reach, huge serve and flat baseline power, he is dangerous on grass and was, like Berrettini, one of the players to watch closely in the bottom half of the men’s draw.
Cilic could have faced Nadal in the fourth round; Berrettini could have faced him in the semifinals. But now Nadal’s path, if he remains healthy, looks quite a bit less daunting.
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