Virus sparks sad Barty announcement
Aussie tennis star Ash Barty has confirmed she won't defend her French Open crown in 2020, citing border closures and concerns about COVID-19 as reasons why she will sit the tournament out.
Barty won her maiden grand slam title at Roland Garros in 2019 but there will be a new winner on the Parisian clay this year as she opts to remain at home in Australia.
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Barty said state border closures Down Under have prevented her from linking up with coach Craig Tyzzer to train, and she is also conscious of "health risks" in France regarding coronavirus, with the country experiencing 31,000 deaths from the global pandemic.
"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.
"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 pre-season 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."
The world No. 1 defeated Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets in the 2019 French Open final as the 24-year-old enjoyed a breakout year.
The French Open was scheduled to start in May but was postponed because of COVID-19, rescheduled to start on September 21.
Barty opted out of the US Open taking place in New York now without spectators as players remain in a quarantine "bubble", but the French Open plans to allow fans into Roland Garros in a couple of weeks.
Tournament Director Guy Forget said all players will be housed in two designated hotels "without exception" to reduce the risks from coronavirus, and he also announced 11,500 spectators a day will be admitted instead of the 20,000 they were originally hoping to accommodate.
Current French government law limits public gatherings to 5000. The Roland Garros complex will be divided into three separate zones "independent of one another" and corresponding to each of the main showcourts, with no crossing in-between.
Courts Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen will be limited to 5000 spectators apiece with Simonne Mathieu restricted to just 1500. No tickets will be sold for the outside courts.
In total, fewer than 150,000 fans are expected over the course of the 15 days - just over a quarter of the 520,000 who attended the 2019 edition.
Players will be tested "upon their arrival and will receive their accreditation as soon as the first negative test is returned", said Forget.
A second test will be carried out within 72 hours and then another every five days based on a player's progression in the tournament, he added.
Originally published as Virus sparks sad Barty announcement