LONDON (Reuters) -Eighth seed Matteo Berrettini, runner-up at last year's Wimbledon, became the second top player to pull out of the Championships after testing positive for COVID-19.
The 26-year-old Italian, who lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2021 final, withdrew from this year's grasscourt Grand Slam on Tuesday due to the coronavirus a day after Croatian Marin Cilic, the 2017 runner-up, was forced to pull out.
"I am heartbroken to announce that I need to withdraw from @wimbledon due to a positive COVID-19 test result," Berrettini said on Instagram hours before his first-round match against Chile's Cristian Garin.
"I have had flu symptoms and been isolating the last few days. Despite symptoms not being severe, I decided it was important to take another test this morning to protect the health and safety of my fellow competitors and everyone else involved in the tournament."
Berrettini was seen as a leading contender to win this year's tournament after he claimed back-to-back titles in tuneup events on grass at Stuttgart and Queen's Club.
"I have no words to describe the extreme disappointment I feel," the Italian added. "The dream is over for this year, but I will be back stronger."
Sweden's Elias Ymer replaced Berrettini in the men's draw, organisers said.
The pandemic forced organisers to cancel the 2020 Wimbledon tournament but no COVID-19 restrictions are in place this year and vaccination is not mandatory for players to participate.
The All England Club has also welcomed back full capacity crowds.
"As a major event we have and continue to work in conjunction with the United Kingdom Public Health Security Agency and our Local Authority," a club spokesperson said in a statement.
"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."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ed Osmond)