Novak Djokovic yesterday confirmed he will play at the US Open, ending speculation about his presence at the first Grand Slam tennis tournament since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sport in March.

“I’m happy to confirm that I’ll participate at #CincyTennis and #USOpen this year,” the 17-time Grand Slam winner tweeted.

“It was not an easy decision to make with all the obstacles and challenges on many sides, but the prospect of competing again makes me really excited.”

The US Open is due to get underway behind closed doors in New York on Aug 31 and will be preceded by the Western and Southern Open, which is normally played in Cincinnati, but has been moved to Flushing Meadows this year owing to the pandemic.

His decision to take part is a major boost for the US Open after a host of stars, including defending and four-time champion Rafael Nadal and women’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, pulled out.

Among the other notable names missing are Nick Kyrgios, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Stan Wawrinka, Elina Svitolina, Barbora Strycova and Kiki Bertens, while women’s world No. 2 and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep is said to be sitting on the fence.

Roger Federer, with a record 20 Slams including five US Open titles, is out after knee surgery.

Djokovic makes his competitive return after being criticised for hosting a charity tennis event in June at which he and a raft of players tested positive for Covid-19.

His confirmation also came after he initially expressed scepticism that the tournament would go ahead, describing the cap on players’ entourages at the tournament as “extreme” and “impossible”.

He wrote on his website: “I am aware that this time around it will be very different with all the protocols and safety measures that are put in place to protect players and people of New York.

“Nevertheless, I’ve trained hard with my team and got my body in shape so I am ready to adapt to new conditions.”

The Serb, who was infected by Covid-19 during his ill-fated Adria Tour exhibition in the Balkans, also reiterated that he had recovered and completed “all (subsequent) check-ups” and was “ready to get back on court fully committed to playing my best tennis”.

The winner of a record eighth Australian Open before the season went into lockdown, Djokovic added that he respected and appreciated the “time, effort, and energy” taken to put on the two US-based events.

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