Australian tennis star Ash Barty has made the ‘difficult’ decision to pull out of the French Open grand slam due to ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The women’s world number one will not defend her crown at Roland Garros after she also opted to miss the US Open currently being played in New York without crowds.
The 24-year-old Australian said the main reasons for her decision where the health risks associated with COVID-19 and her interrupted preparation.
The Queenslander has been unable to work with her coach Craig Tyzzer recently due to domestic state border closures in Australia.
Ash Barty (pictured after winning the 2019 French Open) will not defend grand slam crown
‘Last year´s French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly,’ Barty announced on Tuesday.
‘I wish the players and the French Federation all the best for a successful tournament.’
The delayed grand slam starts at Roland Garros on September 27.
Barty has since been inundated with support over her decision.
‘I know how hard is decision is for you, but you are protecting yourself and other people. With no end in sight to the pandemic, I would rather see you live then win,’ one woman tweeted.’
Ash Barty (pictured with partner Garry Kissick) also recently pulled out of the US Open
But not everyone agreed.
‘I don’t understand why tournaments are allowed to continue, however given you are #1 and can surely find ways to get training and stay safe during travel, I think this is just a lazy decision and disappointing seeing many other aussies playing,’ one fan tweeted.
Barty will turn her attention to on a long pre-season and southern hemisphere summer.
Australia closed its borders in March with international travel still heavily restricted after the federal government recently extended its overseas travel ban until at least December.
Ash Barty won her maiden grand slam at the 2019 French Open but won’t dend her title
Australian Open organisers remain confident the season-opening grand slam will go ahead as scheduled in January.
‘I now look forward to a long preseason 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,’ Barty added.
Barty hasn’t played a competitive match since February, shortly after her shock semi-final loss to Sofia Kenin at the Australian Open in January.