Fears of a Covid outbreak among the leading men’s players at Wimbledon are mounting after one of the tournament’s favourites, Matteo Berrettini, became the second former finalist to withdraw.
Seeded eighth, Berrettini recently won the Queen's title and has won his past nine matches on grass after also beating Andy Murray to win the Stuttgart title.
“I am heartbroken,” said Berrettini, who said he has had flu symptoms and been isolating for the past few days.
It follows the withdrawal on Monday of Marin Cilic, the finalist in 2017, who had himself also practiced last Thursday on Centre Court with Djokovic.
Wimbledon was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic in 2020 and returned last year subject to strict protocols. In common with most sporting events, those protocols have been significantly eased this year despite the recent wider community spike in Covid infections.
With leading players sharing the same locker rooms, there is now a growing fear that the tournament could be further disrupted by a wider outbreak.
Cilic reached the Wimbledon final in 2017, losing in straight sets to Roger Federer, and confirmed on Instagram that he was suffering with Covid. An earlier statement by the All England Club said that the 33-year-old had withdrawn due to “illness” and it is understood that he has avoided being indoors in close proximity with anyone since feeling unwell.
“Hey guys, I am sad to share that I tested positive for Covid,” Cilic said, adding that he was “heartbroken” to see his season on grass end.
“I have been self-isolating and was hopeful I would be ready but unfortunately I am still feeling unwell and unable to compete at my best.”
Cilic, who had been seeded 14th, was regarded as a strong outside bet after reaching the semi-finals at the French Open and was replaced in the draw by Nuno Borges.
Wimbledon said that they were continuing to follow Covid guidance but the protocols in place are noticeably more relaxed than last year when there were reduced crowds and fans needed a Covid pass to show they were vaccinated or had a negative test.
“As a major event we have and continue to work in conjunction with the UK Public Health Security Agency and our Local Authority,” said a spokesperson for the All England Club.
“We have maintained enhanced cleaning and hand sanitising operations, and offer full medical support for anyone feeling unwell. We are following UK guidance around assessment and isolation of any potential infectious disease. Our player medical team also continue to wear face masks for any consultation.”
Covid-19 policies at Wimbledon are under constant review and it is understood that there is now active consideration of bringing in new measures in an attempt to mitigate the risk of a wider outbreak.