The women’s draw has also been hit hard, with two more players from the top 10 joining Barty on the sidelines over the weekend.
World number five Elina Svitolina — who made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year — and seventh-ranked Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens are also gone.
Popyrin’s withdrawal means 2012 US champion Andy Murray, who had been granted a wild card at the tournament, will now move into the main draw.
The French Open, traditionally the second major of the year, starts on September 27, meaning anyone who wanted to play both would only have a two-week turnaround from hard court to clay if they reached the final.
The list isn’t long, but there are a few good things that have emerged during the coronavirus pandemic.
The long-overdue recognition of our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are certainly up there.
As is the ability of opposing political parties to work together in the national interest.
Oh, and that Powderfinger online reunion concert back in May was pretty special too.
The pandemic has also shown us another side of many of our sporting greats.
Top footballers, basketballers and cricketers have had their lives and livelihoods turned upside down by the mass cancellation or restructuring of sporting events.
Some have struggled to adapt to the new COVID normal, others have taken it in their stride and have even grown in stature.
Which brings us to Nick Kyrgios.
Pampered brat turned tennis elder statesman?
Now, it’s fair to say many haven’t been much of a fan of tennis’s bad boy.
I have often expressed my dismay, frustration and outright anger at Kyrgios’s on and off-court antics.
To be honest, when he’s in full racket-smashing, umpire-abusing and chair-hurling mode, Kyrgios is an exceptionally hard person to like.
And, judging by the free character references that flow whenever he throws one of his tantrums, it’s clear a lot of other Australians feel the same way.
A tennis player of prodigious talent has often looked as though he wanted to be anywhere else than on the court.
If that was the case, Kyrgios has certainly got his wish this year, but for all the wrong reasons.
The pandemic has smashed the international tennis circuit.
A raft of tournaments have been cancelled, including the biggest of them all, Wimbledon.
Others have been postponed in the hope the virus threat eventually eases, but some, astonishingly, are going ahead as scheduled.
The biggest of these is the US Open, which is due to begin in less than a month.
Not surprisingly, some players aren’t willing to hop on an international flight and travel to a country that has the world’s highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths.
Women’s world number one Ash Barty pulled out, as has fellow Australian Sam Stosur.
Kyrgios withdrew on Sunday, but in doing so he sounded more like a tennis elder stateman than a pampered brat.
The 25-year-old pleaded with the tennis community to focus squarely on health and safety.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me,” he said in a video posted online.
“These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”
He took a none-too-subtle swipe at other players being selfish (more on that in a moment), before urging the tennis world to “act responsibly”.
Are we witnessing Kyrgios 2.0?
Now, you could be forgiven for wondering whether this is the same guy who has become something of a poster-child for irresponsibility and immaturity. And, sure, there may be some image consulting going on behind the scenes.
But Kyrgios has barely put a foot wrong this year.
He lashed out earlier in the pandemic at Novak Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and other players for going ahead with an exhibition tournament in the Balkans, declaring their actions selfish and stupid.
Djokovic, Dimitrov and two others subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
While there’s a lot of history between Kyrgios and Djokovic, the Australian’s stance won him a lot of applause.
Going back to the start of this challenging year, Kyrgios was tireless in helping drum up support for victims of the summer bushfires, including donating $200 for every ace he served (and there were quite a few).
He has been particularly active in helping bushfire-affected businesses and communities in his home city of Canberra.
Kyrgios has also used his social media accounts to offer food and support for people who have lost their incomes as a result of coronavirus-induced closures.
In a perverse way, this pandemic could be the making of the Australian tennis star.
After losing to Rafael Nadal in an epic fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January, Kyrgios said he felt like he had made progress as a human.
Call it progress, call it a newfound maturity or call it simply working very hard to avoid the brain snaps, it is such a relief to see.
There’s an awful lot to like about Kyrgios 2.0, and if he channels this positive energy onto the court when play resumes, he could be unstoppable.
The tournament is scheduled to start on August 31 — it will be held at its usual home in Flushing Meadows, Queens but will be played without fans to limit the risk of spreading of the virus.
Kyrgios posted a video on Sunday, where he read from a statement.
“I will not be playing this year at the US Open,” he said.
“It hurts me at my core not to be out there, competing in one of the sport’s greatest arenas, Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It’s my decision.”
Uncertainty remains around the tournament that is usually the last major of the year.
The tennis world has been largely shut down for months in response to the pandemic, and players have expressed concerns over safety.
While tournaments are just about to restart, there have been a number of exhibition events held — the most notorious being the ADRIA Cup, a tournament organised by world number one Novak Djokovic, held in a number of countries, but which featured poor social distancing.
Zverev had pledged to self-isolate after featuring in the ill-fated tour that led to Djokovic, his wife, three more players and other members of their various entourage testing positive to coronavirus following a stint at a Belgrade nightclub.
But Becker was none too happy with the Canberran’s take-down.
“We all live in the pandemic called #Covid_19 ! It’s terrible and it killed to many lives…we should protect our families/loved ones and follow the guidelines but still don’t like #rats @NickKyrgios @farfetch.”
Kyrgios was quick to strike back.
“Rats? For holding someone accountable? Strange way to think of it champion, I’m just looking out for people. WHEN my family and families all over the world have respectfully done the right thing. And you have a goose waving his arms around, imma say something,” he replied before following up with a second serve.
“Boris Becker is a bigger doughnut than I thought. Can hit a volley, obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed though.”
The slanging match continued with Becker, a six-times grand slam champion and former world number one, saying: ‘Your funny guy ….how is it down under? Respect all the guidelines?”
“Haha nah bro I’m good, don’t act like you’re my friend now because you got sat down,” Kyrgios tweeted.
Zverev had been widely condemned after being filmed dancing in a crowded room in Monaco, prompting Kyrgios to take the 22-year-old to task on Instagram.
“So I wake up and I see more controversial things happening all over the world, but one that stuck out for me was seeing Zverev again man, again, again, how selfish can you be? How selfish can you be?” Kyrgios said.
“I have just received the news that my team and I have tested negative for COVID-19,” Zverev posted.
“I deeply apologise to anyone that I have potentially put at risk by playing this tour. I will proceed to follow the self-isolating guidelines advised by our doctors. As added precaution, my team and I will continue with regular testing.
“I wish everyone who has tested positive a speedy recovery. Stay safe.”
But Zverev has since been widely condemned after being filmed dancing among a room full of people, with a furious Kyrgios taking the 23-year-old world number seven — also known as Sascha — to task on Instagram in a rant filled with expletives.
“So I wake up and I see more controversial things happening all over the world, but one that stuck out for me was seeing Sascha Zverev again man, again, again, how selfish can you be? How selfish can you be?” Kyrgios said.
“I mean, if you have the audacity to put out a f***ing tweet that you made your management write on your behalf saying you are going to self-isolate for 14 days and apologising to f***ing general public about putting their health at risk, at least have the audacity to stay inside for 14 days. My God.
“Have your girlfriend with you for f***ing 14 days. Jesus, man.
The one-time wild child of world tennis, Kyrgios is increasingly becoming the voice of reason for his shut-down sport.
“I want to make sure anyone who has been in contact with me during the last few days gets tested!” Coric tweeted.
“I am really sorry for any harm I might have caused! I’m feeling well and don’t have any simptoms [sic].”
Dimitrov and Coric played each other over the weekend, embracing at the net before the match but only bumping fists afterwards, although Coric shook hands with the umpire.
Djokovic organised the Adria Tour to be played in four legs across the Balkans — in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina — with some of the best players in world tennis competing.
Djokovic was widely criticised for hosting the tournament during the coronavirus pandemic, but tried to reassure people last week that the organisers were adhering to government guidelines around safety.
“Of course lives have been lost and that’s horrible to see, in the region and worldwide, but life goes on, and we as athletes are looking forward to competing,” he said.
“Boneheaded decision to go ahead with the ‘exhibition’,” he wrote.
Tennis.com reported that Dimitrov’s coach, Christian Groh, and Djokovic’s fitness coach, Marco Panichi, also tested positive.
In addition to world number 19 Dimitrov and Croatian Coric, world number three Dominic Thiem, seventh-ranked Alexander Zverev and world number 14 Andrey Rublev also took part in the first two legs, before Dimitrov’s diagnosis stopped play.
Zverev, Rublev and Thiem all revealed they had tested negative after Dimitrov’s revelation. Djokovic is reportedly still waiting on test results.
Thiem travelled to France and played Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown overnight.
In a touching tribute to Bryant, Kyrgios entered Rod Laver Arena in a Kobe number eight LA Lakers jersey, seemingly in tears, then used the NBA superstar’s death as motivation to keep fighting to beat his bitter rival.
“It’s horrible news. If anything, it motivated me. If you look at the things he stood for, what he wanted to be remembered by, I felt like, if anything, it helped me tonight,” Kyrgios said.
“When I was down a break in the fourth, I was definitely thinking about it. I fought back.”
Nick Kyrgios will donate $200 for every ace he hits this summer to raise funds for bushfire-hit communities
Kyrgios says it’s been hard to see the “hazardous” smoke blanketing his home town of Canberra
Lleyton Hewitt says Australian Open has the platform to provide significant support to communities
The world number 30 posted his idea to Twitter late on Wednesday, and by Thursday afternoon the concept was gathering pace.
“The more exposure it gets I think we have the potential to do something pretty special there,” Kyrgios told media ahead of the inaugural ATP Cup, where he’ll represent Australia in Brisbane from Friday.
“All the heartbreak this summer; it’s pretty tragic what’s going on, especially with my hometown, Canberra, being under a bit of smoke, the most hazardous smoke in the world at the moment.
“To see Canberra like that, it’s pretty tough to see.”
Kyrgios later tweeted that he would donate $200 for every ace he hit this summer, while Australian teammate Alex de Minaur responded saying he’d go to $250 per ace, because: “I don’t think I’ll be hitting as many aces as you mate.”
The big-serving Canberran nailed 597 aces in 2019, and while he’s not expected to match that figure in a single summer, he is certainly likely to fetch a healthy sum for donations.
The ATP Cup, which will be played between Sydney, Perth and Brisbane from Friday, announced in a tweet that every ace served in its inaugural competition will see the tournament donate $100 to the Red Cross.
Many of the game’s headline acts, including world number one Rafael Nadal and number two Novak Djokovic, are in Australia to play in the newly minted teams event ahead of the year’s first grand slam at Melbourne Park.