Serena Williams wants assurances over plans for some fans to attend French Open

Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after beating Maria Sakkari of Greece on day eight of the 2020 US Open tennis at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after beating Maria Sakkari of Greece on day eight of the 2020 US Open tennis at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Image: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Having adjusted to the sight of barren stands inside Flushing Meadows, Serena Williams said she has some questions over how players will be protected at the French Open, which plans to welcome a limited number of spectators.

Organisers had earlier said Roland Garros would allow 11,500 fans per day between three showcourts when the tournament starts on September 27 in a departure from numerous professional sports events that have barred spectators amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Williams, who avoids public places and takes a conservative approach to social distancing due to prior health concerns, said she hopes to speak with French Open organisers to "see how that works with the crowd and how we will be protected.

"They have to make the best decision for them, and I have to do what's best for me. But I think it should be okay," said Williams, who suffered blood clots and life-threatening pulmonary embolisms while giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017.

"There (are) a lot of factors that hopefully - hopefully - they are thinking about, and I'm sure that they are, as this is a global pandemic," said Williams, who notched her 100th win inside Arthur Ashe Stadium when she beat Greece's Maria Sakkari at the US Open on Monday.

The 38-year-old American, who is on a quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, said she misses playing in front of the legions of fans who regularly support her but has largely adapted to the unusual circumstances at Flushing Meadows this year.

"I don't feel like I'm super different without a crowd," said third-seeded Williams. "I'm super passionate. This is my job. This is what I wake up to do. This is what I train to do 365 days of the year.

"Obviously I miss the crowd, because usually I'm training and I'm playing for the crowd. But now we have a virtual crowd."

She next faces Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in the US Open quarter-finals.

Reigning champion Ash Barty will not play at the French Open because of health concerns and a lack of preparation, the world number one said on Tuesday.

Barty has not played a tournament match since February and also skipped the ongoing US Open over health concerns relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 24-year-old Australian, who beat Marketa Vondrousova in the 2019 final at Roland Garros to win her first Grand Slam title, said she would not be playing at all in Europe this year.

"Last year's French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly," Barty said in a statement on 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 lives in Queensland, which has been relatively successful in containing the new coronavirus and has closed its borders to the more populous southeastern states where there are more cases.

Tennis Australia is looking to schedule more tournaments for players around the country from December, in addition to the usual warm-up events, to allow players to prepare for January's Australian Open.

"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."

The French Open was originally scheduled to start in May but was moved back to September 27-October 11 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

- Reuters


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