There are growing fears that Rafael Nadal will decide to skip this year's US Open and forfeit the chance to defend his 2019 title.
The World No.2 has confirmed that he will take part in the Madrid Open, which has raised serious doubts about whether he will travel to New York for the American grand slam event.
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The US Open, whose fate still hangs in the balance, is scheduled to run from August 31 to September 13 on the hard courts of New York while the main draw at the Madrid event on clay starts on September 14.
Madrid will serve as a warmup for the rescheduled French Open, the clay court Grand Slam that begins on September 20.
Madrid tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who as a player won the Queen's Club singles and doubles titles last year, wrote on Twitter that Nadal had agreed to play his tournament.
"I've spoken with my friend @RafaelNadal and he's confirmed he will take part in Madrid this September," Lopez said.
He said Nadal would be welcomed "with open arms" at the event.
Nadal responded by writing: "Same with you Feli. See you in September in Madrid."
Many in the tennis world have taken Nadal’s confirmation to mean that he’ll almost certainly decide to skip the US Open.
That surely means Nadal is 'no' for the US Open. https://t.co/a2jY5FWN2s— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) July 7, 2020
VAMOS, @RafaelNadal!! 🇪🇸— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) July 7, 2020
Whether or not the World No. 2 will be playing the @usopen is still up in the air, but the @MutuaMadridOpen will be welcoming him with open arms. #MMOpenhttps://t.co/GRXEjsWcUS
I hope he plays the US Open. He is the defending champion & we need him to attend to rise tennis above the debacle of Djokovic and the Adria Tour. We need RAFA in NY. It’s equally if not more important than he thinks. A plea from a great fan. @RafaelNadal @atptour @WTA @usopen https://t.co/6qdaYsnYa1— Paulo Silvera (@prsp_22) July 7, 2020
📅 Sep 11: US Open finishes 🇺🇸— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) July 7, 2020
📅 Sep 12: Madrid Open starts 🇪🇸
Defending champion @RafaelNadal looks set to miss the US Open after confirming he will play the Madrid Open
World No. 2 @RafaelNadal confirms he will play the @MutuaMadridOpen, per tournament director @feliciano_lopez 🎾 The Masters 1000 in Madrid begins the day after the @usopen finishes. Read between the lines, but it seems a pretty good indicator that Rafa is a ‘no’ for the US Open. https://t.co/Rmv1MksHhp— Michael Dickens (@michaelcdickens) July 7, 2020
Virus situation casts doubt on US Open
The United States has seen a sharp resurgence of new coronavirus cases, leading to fresh doubts about whether the US Open will take place.
Leading players, including World No.3 Dominic Thiem, have said they expect a decision from US Open organisers this week.
Madrid's showpiece event was postponed from May and is now scheduled to begin on the same Sunday that the men's US Open final will be on.
Nadal may not need to play in Madrid until possibly the Wednesday, but it is possible he could be considering skipping the trip to the United States, focusing instead on the delayed clay-court swing.
After Madrid comes the Italian Open in Rome, with the French Open, which Nadal has won a record 12 times, then beginning on September 27.
The 34-year-old Nadal has previously indicated he was unsure about travelling to New York, questioning whether that event should happen given the COVID-19 crisis.
Playing closer to home is more straightforward for Spain's 19-time grand slam winner.
with Yahoo Sport staff