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'It has been a challenging year': Women's No. 1 Ash Barty pulls out of French Open and says she'll skip ENTIRE European season

'It has been a challenging year': Women's No. 1 Ash Barty pulls out of French Open and says she'll skip ENTIRE European season
Reigning champion Ash Barty has confirmed that she will not play in the 2020 French Open later this month due to health concerns and a lack of preparation, she announced on Tuesday.

Barty has not been in action since February and also opted to miss the US Open currently taking place in Flushing Meadows, New York over concerns related to the tournament's COVID-19 safety protocols.

The Aussie, who captured the French Open title on the famous red clay of Roland Garros last year when she defeated Marketa Vondrousova to win her first Grand Slam championship, said she plans to sit out the entire European season.

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"Last year's French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly," Barty posted to her 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 remains at home in Queensland, Australia, where the government's guidelines and protocols have largely helped keep the spread of the virus to a minimum.

Tennis Australia is planning to set up tournaments for Australian-based players from December this year to provide them with the opportunity to head into the Australian Open with some semblance of form and match sharpness.

That appears to be Barty's main target after writing off her competitive schedule through the bulk of 2020 in favor of a long run-up to the 2021 season.

"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."

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