BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – World number one Ash Barty will not defend her French Open title due to concerns related to transfers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After being absent from the U.S. Open, which takes place in New York behind closed doors, Barty decided not to travel to Europe for the tournaments in Rome and Roland Garros.

« The French Open last year was the most special tournament of my career, so this is not a decision I have made lightly, » said Barty, who won his first Grand Slam last year in Paris, in a statement. released Tuesday. « I wish all the players and the French Federation all the best for a successful tournament. »

The 24-year-old Australian said the main reasons for her decision were health risks related to COVID-19 and disruptions in its preparation. He has not been able to train with his coach recently due to the closure of state lines in Australia.

Barty said he would focus on a long preseason and summer tournaments in the southern hemisphere. Australia closed its international borders in March due to the pandemic and international movements remain severely restricted. Organizers of the Australian Open remain optimistic that the first Grand Slam of the season will go ahead as planned next January.

“It has been a challenging year for everyone and although it disappoints me in terms of sports, the health and well-being of my family and my team will always be my priority,” said Barty. « Thank you to my fans for your continued support, and I can’t wait to play for you again. »

Barty hasn’t played a competitive game since February. Their last Grand Slam tournament match was a loss in the Australian Open semifinals to Sofia Kenin last January.