World No 1 Ash Barty to skip French Open title defence due to Covid concerns | Sport

Ashleigh Barty will not defend her French Open title this year after the world No 1 opted to miss the tournament in Paris due to concerns over coronavirus and a lack of training time spent with her coach.

The Australian, who becomes the biggest name to pull out so far, has already skipped the US Open, currently being played in New York. Her absence from Roland Garros will be a huge blow to organisers who planning for a delayed 21 September start amid the pandemic in France.

Barty’s maiden grand slam success came on the Parisian clay last year, but the 24-year-old said her health and the safety of her family and team trumped the opportunity to claim the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen for a second straight year.

“It has been a difficult decision to make but unfortunately I will not be competing in Europe this 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.

The Queenslander, who has been ranked the best women’s tennis player in the world since June 2019, said the current global health situation was part of her decision, but the impact of the pandemic on her training schedule was also a factor.

Preparations have “not been ideal” this year, she said, and time spent training with her coach Craig Tyzzer has been limited “due to the state border closures in Australia”. There was also a lack of match practice – she has not played a competitive match since February – to be considered.

Barty will also miss the European WTA Tour events and will instead focus on training at home in Queensland in preparation for the upcoming summer of tennis on home ground.

The Australian Open remains on at this stage, although the Kooyong Classic was cancelled last week. Other events are scheduled to be held in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart in the buildup to the first grand slam of 2021.

“I now look forward to a long pre-season and the summer in Australia,” Barty said.

“It has been a challenging year for everyone and although I am disappointed on a tennis front, the health and wellbeing 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.”

There has been a spike in coronavirus cases in France recently and last week the country recorded a new all-time high of daily additional infections.

Barty, along with a number of other big names including compatriot Nick Kyrgios and a total of six of the women’s top 10, chose to stay away from the US Open citing Covid concerns.

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