Defending champion Barty to skip French Open over virus fears

Sydney (AFP) –


World number one Ashleigh Barty announced Tuesday she will not defend her French Open crown, citing the coronavirus fears that also prompted her to withdraw from this year's US Open.

The Australian, who claimed her maiden Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2019, said it was a "difficult" decision but the health of her family and team came first.

"Last year's French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly," she said on social media.

"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."

Barty announced in late July that she would sit out the US Open, currently being played in New York, but was still monitoring the situation with the French Open, which is due to start on September 27.

She said the decision not to attend was the latest development in "a challenging year for everyone".

"I wish the players and the French Federation all the best for a successful tournament," the 24-year-old said.

"I now look forward to a long preseason and the summer in Australia."

Barty's withdrawal comes after organisers at Roland Garros said all players at the Grand Slam would be housed in two designated hotels "without exception" to reduce coronavirus risks.