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Zika virus threat claims more Olympians as tennis stars begin to pull out of Rio

The US Open is due to start two weeks after the Olympics.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Berdych has pulled out of the Olympics.
Wimbledon semi-finalist Berdych has pulled out of the Olympics.
Image: Ben Curtis

WORLD NUMBER EIGHT Tomas Berdych has pulled out of the Olympics due to concerns over the Zika virus, just a day after fellow top 10 stars Milos Raonic and Simona Halep also withdrew over similar health concerns.

“I am very sorry to announce that I will not take part in this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Berdych, the 30-year-old Wimbledon semi-finalist, said on Twitter.

“It is because of the Zika virus spread in the country of the Olympics.”

“As I have founded a family recently, to limit health risks towards my nearest is the utmost priority.”

Berdych, who married model Ester Satorova last year, had also pulled out of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup tie with France, in which the Czechs are trailing 2-1 after Saturday’s rubbers.

Berdych follows a host of other tennis stars who are skipping Rio over the Zika scare.

On Friday, Wimbledon runner-up and world number seven Raonic, as well as Romania’s world number five Simona Halep, the 2014 French Open runner-up, said they would not make the trip to Rio.

Canadian star Raonic, who was defeated by Andy Murray in last Sunday’s Wimbledon final, said he had taken the decision “with a heavy heart”.

Zika Withdrawals Tennis The US Open is due to start two weeks after the Olympics. Source: AP/Press Association Images

John Isner of the United States, Austria’s Dominic Thiem, Australian duo Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios as well as Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez have all opted, for various reasons, not to take part in the Olympics.

Italy’s former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone has turned down the opportunity while former world number ones Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka will also be missing.

Sharapova is serving a doping suspension while Azarenka announced Friday that she is pregnant and won’t compete again in 2016.

Eccentric Latvian player Ernests Gulbis described the Rio event as “tennis tourism” as the Olympics do not offer either prize money or ranking points.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) moved to reassure players and fans over the threat posed by Zika at the Olympics which start on 5 August.

Britain Tennis British Team Andy Murray has said he will defend his gold in Rio. Source: AP/Press Association Images

“While we understand and respect the concerns over the Zika virus, the IOC has assured us that all precautions will be taken to limit the risk to athletes, officials and fans,” ITF president David Haggerty told AFP in a statement.

“We also accept the view of the World Health Organisation that there is no reason at this time to postpone or cancel the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”

Fears over Zika have already seen the image of the golf event in Rio badly tarnished with the sport’s top four players — Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson — all choosing not to play.

© AFP 2016

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