Ash Barty has made the heartbreaking decision not to defend her French Open title, opting to stay in Australia and not travel to Europe during the coronavirus pandemic.
After skipping the US Open, which is being contested in New York without crowds, Barty has decided against travelling to Europe for events at Rome and Roland Garros.
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“It has been a difficult decision to make but unfortunately I will not be competing in Europe this year,” she wrote on social media on Tuesday.
“Last year’s French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly.
“I wish the players and the French Federation all the best for a successful tournament.”
The Australian won her maiden grand slam crown with her victory at the 2019 French Open.
The 24-year-old said the main reasons for her decision where the health risks associated with COVID-19 and her limited training without coach Craig Tyzzer “due to the state border closures in Australia”.
Australia closed its international borders in March because of the coronavirus pandemic and international travel is still heavily restricted.
Barty said she would instead focus on a long pre-season and southern hemisphere summer.
Organisers of the Australian Open remain confident the season-opening major will go ahead as scheduled in January.
“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,” Barty said.
“Thank you to my fans for your continued support, I can’t wait to play for you again.”
Barty hasn't played a competitive match since February. Her last match in a major was a semi-final loss to Sofia Kenin at the Australian Open in January.
Ash Barty out of the French Open - her coach Craig Tyzzer couldn’t get to QLD to train her - yet the entire AFL staff and families can??!! pic.twitter.com/a3L65nMxqg— Luke Dennehy (@LukeDennehy) September 8, 2020
Wow, Ash Barty, world No. 1, skips the French Open after skipping the US Open. Will have played only one major in 2020: her nation's own, the Australian Open. https://t.co/50gxk30Yot— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 8, 2020
Reigning French Open Champion Ash Barty won’t play this year.— Catherine Murphy (@CathMurphySport) September 8, 2020
She hasn’t been able to train with her coach due to border closures.
Yep, we’re all in it together Australia!! pic.twitter.com/mLb6fnsgLb
French Open to allow 11,500 fans per day
Meanwhile, French Open officials have announced they will allow a maximum of 11,500 spectators per day to adhere to strict health protocols and curb the spread of COVID-19 when the grand slam begins later this month.
The French Open, traditionally held in May-June, was postponed earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will now be held at Roland Garros from September 27-October 11.
France has recorded nearly 31,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
The French Federation said a maximum of 5000 spectators per day would be allowed to watch matches at both the Philippe-Chatrier and Suzanne-Lenglen showcourts while only 1500 fans would be allowed at the smaller Simonne-Mathieu court.
Seating arrangements would have a gap of one seat on each row and no more than four people can sit side-by-side while wearing masks would be mandatory for anyone over the age of 11.
The qualifying rounds, which begin on September 21, will be held behind closed doors.
Officials had said in July it planned to allow up to 60% of the usual number of fans. A record 520,000 spectators attended last year's event, according to organisers.