Barty opts out of French Open title defence amid pandemic

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Ash Barty has prioritised her health over her status as women’s tennis number one by opting out of a second Grand Slam event during the coronavirus pandemic, this time skipping a title defence at the French Open.

After pulling out of the United States (US) Open, which is being contested in New York without crowds, Barty has also decided against travelling to Europe for a clay court tournament in Rome and the rescheduled French Open from September 27 because of concerns over COVID-19. She has indicated she may not play competitively again until 2021.

The 24-year-old Australian said it was a tough decision, particularly because Roland Garros is where she captured her first major title last year.

“Last year’s French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly,” Barty said in a statement yesterday. “I wish the players and the French Federation all the best for a successful tournament.”

The statement was issued within hours of French Open organisers saying spectators would be allowed at the tournament despite a growing number of coronavirus cases in the country.

Australia’s Ash Barty. PHOTO: AP