PRAGUE: Czech tennis stars, world No. 8 Tomas Berdych and 16th-ranked Karolina Pliskova, on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) joined the growing band of players pulling out of the Olympics due to concerns over the Zika virus.
Their decision came just a day after top 10 stars Milos Raonic and Simona Halep also withdrew over similar health fears.
“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.
The 24-year-old Pliskova told the Czech News Agency she was pulling out for the same reason as Berdych.
“I share the concerns about the possible effects of catching the Zika virus,” she said.
Their decision will not please Radek Stepanek, who was due to form a doubles pair with time-tested Davis Cup teammate Berdych in Rio, and Lucie Safarova, snubbed by Pliskova, who may however team up with Barbora Strycova for doubles.
Berdych and Pliskova follow 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 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 Sunday’s Wimbledon final, said he had taken the decision “with a heavy heart”.
John Isner of US, 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.