'Health is priority': Ash Barty drops fresh bombshell on tennis world

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Ash Barty, pictured here with the winner's trophy after the 2019 French Open.
Ash Barty poses with the trophy after winning the 2019 French Open. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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.

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.

Ash Barty, pictured here celebrating her victory in the 2019 French Open final.
Ash Barty celebrates her victory in the 2019 French Open final. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

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.

with agencies