'What a joke': Uproar over 'appalling' Ash Barty controversy

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Ash Barty, pictured here after winning the 2019 French Open title.
Ash Barty won't be defending her French Open title in 2020. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Ash Barty says part of the reason she won’t be defending her French Open crown is because she hasn’t been able to see her coach due to Australia’s state border restrictions.

Barty on Tuesday announced her decision to forgo her French Open title defence in part due to a lack of preparation, with state border closures in Australia aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 having prevented Melbourne-based Craig Tyzzer from travelling to her home base in Queensland.

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On Wednesday the World No.1 said her attempts to get Tyzzer to Queensland were rejected by authorities.

“To not have him up in Queensland has been really tough,” Barty said in a video released by Tennis Australia on Wednesday.

“I haven’t been able to see him since March.

“It's been a tricky time for us to get ready ... but we tried to go through all the applications, tried to do all the right things but unfortunately we were rejected.

“We'll try again for pre-season and hopefully he can come up here and we can prepare as best we can for the Australian summer.”

Barty has since said she hopes authorities will approve travel for Tyzzer in the lead-up to the Australian Open to allow her to better prepare for the home summer of tennis.

Queensland has been relatively successful in containing COVID-19 and has closed its borders to the more populous southeastern states where there are more cases.

Some media pundits have accused Queensland authorities of having double standards in Barty's case, given the state approved the entry of hundreds of AFL staff and family members last month.

Socceroos great and Fox Sports commentator Robbie Slater described the situation as ‘unbelievable’ and a ‘shame’, while others said it was ‘appalling’.

With Barty absent from the ongoing US Open over health concerns relating to the pandemic, Alex de Minaur has flown the flag for Australia at the grand slam by reaching the men's quarter-finals.

“It's great for 'Demon', I'm so rapt for him,” Barty said of the 21-year-old, who plays Dominic Thiem on Wednesday (local time) in New York.

“It's the level which he really, genuinely belongs.”

Ash Barty decision puts No.1 ranking in jeopardy

Putting her health first, Barty has placed her year-end top ranking in jeopardy after making the agonising decision not to travel to Europe.

The bombshell call to end her season could also cruel the Queenslander's hopes of finishing as World No.1 for the second straight year.

Despite holding a significant lead atop the rankings after winning her eighth career title in Adelaide this year, then reaching the Australian Open and Doha semi-finals, Barty will come under threat from World No.2 Simona Halep - and potentially others.

But, as she did by skipping the US Open in New York, the 24-year-old is once again putting her wellbeing, and that of her tight-knit team, first.

Ash Barty and coach Craig Tyzzer, pictured here in Adelaide in January.
Ash Barty and coach Craig Tyzzer in January. (Photo by Sue McKay/Getty Images)

“It has been a difficult decision to make but unfortunately I will not be competing in Europe this year,” Barty said in a statement.

“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.

“Thank you to my fans for your continued support. I can't wait to play for you again.”

Barty has spent a total of 40 weeks as World No.1 - the 12th-longest reign in history - having just eclipsed Amelie Mauresmo’s 39-week stint at the summit.

But, depending on how Halep fares at Roland Garros and beyond, and how others including former World No.1 Naomi Osaka finish up in New York this week, Barty could relinquish her top-seeding status for her home slam in Melbourne.

Despite Victoria's ongoing battle with coronavirus, the 2021 Australian Open is still scheduled to go ahead as planned from January 18-31.

with agencies