Sport Ash Barty may have to wait until October to defend French Open title without fans
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Ash Barty may have to wait until October to defend French Open title without fans

Ash Barty on her way to the 2019 French Open singles crown in June. Photo: AFP/Getty
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Ash Barty’s defence of her French Open singles title could take place without fans as organisers ponder a likely later start date.

The 24-year-old Queenslander and world No.1 became the first Australian female grand slam singles champion since Sam Stosur in 2011 by beating the Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova in June.

The Young Australian of the Year had also won the 2018 US Open doubles title with CoCo Vandeweghe.

French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said on Sunday the famous clay court tournament, which was initially slated to be held from May 24 to June 7 but was postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic and rescheduled for September 20 to October 4, could be held without fans.

Giudicelli told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that organisers are considering the prospect it might need to go ahead without fans present.

It could even start one week later.

“Organising it without fans would allow a part of the economy to keep turning, (like) television rights and partnerships. It’s not to be overlooked,” Giudicelli said in the newspaper interview.

“We’re not ruling any option out.”

Giudicelli conceded “the lack of visibility” when hosting a tournament without fans is a concern.

Recent reports have speculated that the French Open could be rescheduled again.

“The 20th or the 27th, that does not change much,” Giudicelli said.

The FFT is refunding all tickets purchased for the original dates of Roland Garros by the end of May, and a new ticketing procedure will be opened if it goes ahead.

-AAP