BELGRADE, August 13 (Reuters): World number one Novak Djokovic will compete at the Aug 31-Sept 13 U.S. Open and the Western & Southern Open curtain-raiser, the winner of 17 Grand Slam titles said in a statement on Thursday.
His decision will come as good news for the U.S. Open organisers after several high-profile players, including former winners Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka, pulled out over issues related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
But it is also a U-turn from Djokovic after his June statements that competing at the 2020 U.S. Open would be "impossible" due to "extreme" COVID-19 protocols for the tournament at Flushing Meadows.
"I am happy to confirm that I will participate at the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open this year," the 33-year old Serb said.
"It was not an easy decision to make with all the obstacles and challenges on so many sides, but the prospect of competing again makes me really excited.
"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 the people of New York."
Djokovic and three other players contracted the coronavirus at the Serb's Adria Tour event in June, with the first leg being held at his tennis centre in Belgrade and the second in Croatia's coastal city Zadar.
Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov tested positive ahead of the Zadar leg final, which was scrapped as a result, with Djokovic, his compatriot Viktor Troicki and Croatian Borna Coric also testing positive shortly afterwards.
The remaining two legs in Bosnia and Montenegro wee cancelled and Djokovic resumed training in Belgrade and more recently at the Spanish resort of Marbella after his second COVID-19 test came back negative.
"I have trained hard with my team and got my body in shape so I am ready to adapt to new conditions," Djokovic added on Thursday.
"I have done all the check-ups to make sure I am fully recovered and I am ready to get back on court fully committed to playing my best tennis.
"I appreciate everyone taking time, effort and energy to organise these two events for the tennis players to go back to their working field."
The U.S. Open will be the first Grand Slam event to be held since the COVID-19 pandemic threw the season into chaos, with this year's Wimbledon cancelled while the French Open has been rescheduled for a Sept. 27-Oct. 11 slot.