SYDNEY – Reigning champion Ash Barty will not play at the French Open later this month because of health concerns and a lack of preparation, the world number one said on Tuesday.

Barty has not played a tournament match since February and also skipped the ongoing US Open over health concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 24-year-old Australian, who beat Marketa Vondrousova in the 2019 final at Roland Garros to win her first Grand Slam title, said she would not be playing at all 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 on Instagram.

“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 lives in Queensland, which has been relatively successful in containing the new coronavirus and has closed its borders to the more populous southeastern states where there are more cases.

Tennis Australia is looking to schedule more tournaments for players around the country from December, in addition to the usual warm-up events, to allow players to prepare for January’s Australian Open.

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

“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.”

The French Open was originally scheduled to start in May but was moved back to 27 September to 11 October because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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