The French Open will have fans.
It won’t have Ashleigh Barty.
The 2019 Roland Garros champion and world No. 1 announced on Instagram Monday that she will not travel to France to defend her title. Citing COVID-19, the 24-year-old Australian called the decision “difficult.”
“It has been a difficult decision to make but unfortunately I will not be competing in Europe this year,” Barty wrote. “Last year’s French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly.”
In addition to direct COVID-19 concerns, Barty also cited her lack of preparation due to the inability to train with her coach because of pandemic-related travel restrictions.
French Open announces fan presence
Barty made her announcement hours after French Open officials announced that the tournament will allow limited fans at the Grand Slam tournament scheduled for late September despite ongoing COVID-19 risks.
The tournament will allow 11,500 fans a day with a maximum of 5,000 spectators at a time at its featured courts. The decision arrived as France and Europe have seen a resurgence in COVID-19 cases as regions across the continent have implemented reopening efforts.
On Friday, France saw nearly 9,000 new cases, its largest daily increase since the onset of the pandemic.
Serena Williams is unsure
Serena Williams, who advanced on Monday at the US Open being played without spectators, expressed concern about the decision.
“Well, if there are fans, then we should be able to stay elsewhere then,” Williams told reporters after her win over Maria Sakkari. “Yeah, that’s interesting, because there is no private housing but there’s fans. But I kind of knew that.
“It’s just for me I’m super conservative because I do have some serious health issues, so I try to stay away from public places, because I have been in a really bad position in the hospital a few times.”
Williams has suffered pulmonary embolisms multiple times since 2011, including after giving childbirth in 2018. She indicated she was leaning toward playing, but still has questions before committing to the tournament.
“I’m honestly taking it one day at a time,” Williams continued. “I’m going to have to make the best decision for my health. You know, obviously 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.
“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 okay.”
The French Open is slated to take place from Sept. 27 through Oct. 11. The tournament that’s normally held in the spring was postponed due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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