Ash Barty opts out of Australia’s team for Billie Jean King Cup finals

A return to court for Ash Barty this season looks less likely after the world No 1 was omitted from Australia’s team for next month’s Billie Jean King Cup finals in Prague.

The Wimbledon champion, who returned to Australia after a third-round exit at the US Open in September, led her country to the final of the last completed edition of the Fed Cup in 2019.

The women’s team tournament was cancelled because of the global health crisis last year and subsequently renamed in honour of American trailblazer King.

Former US Open champion Sam Stosur, another Fed Cup stalwart, will also miss the 1 to 6 November finals with world No 47 Ajla Tomljanovic joined by Astra Sharma and Storm Sanders as well as debutants Ellen Perez and Olivia Gadecki in the team.

“Ajla has had an incredible year and this is a great opportunity for her to lead the team,” captain Alicia Molik said in a news release. “Storm and Astra are both tremendous team players and it’s exciting to welcome Ellen and Olivia to the team for the first time.”

Australia won the Fed Cup seven times with the last title coming in 1971.

Barty missed most of the 2020 season as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold around the world, opting to stay in Australia where the new coronavirus was initially successfully suppressed.

The 25-year-old returned to the tour this year and won five titles, including a maiden Wimbledon title at the All England Club in July.

Her management team said last month that Barty might not defend the WTA Finals title she won in Shenzhen in 2019 when the elite season-ending competition returns in Mexico on 8 November.

Anyone arriving in Australia from abroad must still undergo 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine.