Ash Barty will not defend French Open title

Ash Barty
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Ash Barty will not defend her French Open title in three weeks, citing health risks of traveling during the coronavirus pandemic and an inability to train with her coach, who is in a different Australian state.

Barty, ranked No. 1 in the world, already skipped the ongoing U.S. Open and will now sit out the remaining European tournaments this year.

“Last year’s French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly,” was posted on her social media. “I now look forward to a long preseason and the summer in Australia.”

Last year, Barty capped a return from a 21-month leave from the sport by winning her first Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros.

She became the second Australian woman to be ranked No. 1 after Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

Earlier Monday, Serena Williams said she will “have to make the best decision for my health” about playing in the French Open. Organizers announced that the tournament will allow fans divided into zones — a maximum 5,000 for each of the two main courts and 1,500 for a zone surrounding the third-biggest court.

Players will be in a bubble, split between two hotels but not allowed to stay elsewhere as they have been for the U.S. Open.

“Maybe it will be good for me to talk to the organizers just to see how that works with the crowd and how we will be protected,” Williams said. “They have to make the best decision for them, and I have to do what’s best for me. But I think it should be OK.

“I still have some questions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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It has been a difficult decision to make but unfortunately I will not be competing in Europe this year. Last year’s French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly. There are two reasons for my decision. The first is the health risks that still exist with Covid. The second is my preparation, which has not been ideal without my coach being able to train with me due to the state border closures in Australia. I wish the players and the French Federation all the best for a successful tournament. I now look forward to a long preseason and the summer in Australia. It has been a challenging year for everyone and although I am disappointed on a tennis front, the health and well-being of my family and my team will always be my priority. Thank you to my fans for your continued support, I can’t wait to play for you again.

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