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Barty joins players expressing concern over US Open timing

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE - In this June 8, 2019, file photo, Australia's Ash Barty holds the trophy as she celebrates winning her women's final match of the French Open tennis tournament against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in two sets 6-1, 6-3, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris. Barty has joined the ranks of high-profile players expressing concern over the staging of the U.S. Open while theres still so much uncertainty in the coronavirus pandemic. The womens No. 1 hasnt had the chance yet to defend her French Open title because all elite tennis competition is shuttered. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

BRISBANE – Ash Barty has joined the ranks of high-profile players concerned over the staging of the U.S. Open while there’s still so much uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.

The women’s No. 1 hasn’t had the chance yet to defend her French Open title because all elite tennis competition is shuttered. She’s already processed the fact there’ll be no Wimbledon in 2020 but is still awaiting clarity on the U.S. Open, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 31.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, winners of the last eight men’s major titles, have aired reservations about the potential restrictions on players, limits on player entourages and other changes being considered for the U.S. Open. Women’s No. 2 Simona Halep reportedly is also uncertain about playing.

“I have concerns too,” Barty said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “I understand the tournaments are eager to run but keeping everyone safe has to be the priority.”

A decision from the U.S. Tennis Association’s board about whether to hold the Grand Slam tournament in New York in August could be made as early as this week. The U.S. has accounted for more than 115,000 of the almost 433,000 deaths globally from COVID-19, including more than 30,000 in the state of New York, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Djokovic last week told Serbia’s state broadcaster RTS that most players he’s talked to “were quite negative” about entering the U.S. Open and that for him, “as things stand, most probably the season will continue on clay at the beginning of September.”

The French Open was postponed from a May start to late September because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Under usual circumstances, the U.S. Open is the last of the four majors to be played in the season, when the tours go back to hard courts following the grass and clay-court swings.

U.S. Open tournament director Stacey Allaster has said organizers have been trying to figure out how to “engage fans virtually,” making it unlikely that fans — or at least large groups of fans — will be allowed to attend.