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File photo of Ashleigh Barty playing tennis in July 2019

image copyrightPA Media

image captionAshleigh Barty won her first singles Grand Slam at Roland Garros last year

World number one Ashleigh Barty has decided not to defend her French Open tennis title this year, pulling out of the tournament because of coronavirus.

The Australian said last year’s event at Roland Garros had been “the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly”.

The 24-year-old cited the health risks, and the inability to train effectively with her coach in recent months.

Barty also opted not to compete at the ongoing US Open in New York.

Barty, from Brisbane, explained that she had been unable to reunite with her Melbourne-based coach because of the

state border closures imposed in Australia to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“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,” she said.

The French Open is due to get under way later this month in Paris, with reduced numbers of spectators and strict health protocols.

France, like several European countries, is experiencing a rise in coronavirus infections.

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