By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic has decided to withdraw from next month’s Rio Olympics due in part to fears over the Zika virus, the Canadian world number seven said on Friday.
The big-serving Raonic, who lost to Andy Murray in the men’s championship match at the All England Club on Sunday, is the first tennis player to pull out of the Aug 5-21 Olympics due to concerns over the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my withdrawal from participation in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” Raonic, 25, said in a statement issued by Tennis Canada.
“After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am making this decision for a variety of health concerns including the uncertainty around the Zika virus.”
Raonic’s announcement came hours after he was named by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) as one of the entrants in the singles draw at the Olympics.
The Zika virus, which the World Health Organization says is spreading rapidly in the Americas, has been linked to severe birth defects in infants born to infected women, and possible neurological problems in adults.
Raonic joins a growing list of athletes to have pulled out of the Rio Games over health concerns triggered by the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil, including a number of high-profile male golfers.
“This was a difficult, personal choice and I do not wish for it to impact the decision of any other athlete heading to the Games,” said Raonic.
“I am very proud to have competed for Canada at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and on the world stage at several Davis Cup events. I look forward to cheering on Team Canada this summer.”
Romanian world number five Simona Halep said last month she might pull out of the Olympics because she was “very worried” about effects of the Zika virus but has yet to make a decision.
Raonic lost in the second round of the 2012 Summer Games to Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“We fully respect Milos’ decision as we are sure this is not one he made easily,” said Tennis Canada chief executive Kelly Murumets.
“Milos represents Canada proudly week after week around the world and we look forward to future opportunities for him to join Team Canada again on the court.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine)