Serena Williams plans to play US and French Opens as she plots safe return

Serena Williams plans to play US and French Opens as she plots safe return

Serena Williams has said she intends to travel to Europe for the French Open in late September and compete at the remaining tournaments on the calendar should they take place. “I see myself doing it all if it happens,” she said as she prepares for her first competition in six months.

Williams was speaking from the Top Seed Open, a new tournament in Lexington, Kentucky, where she will be the top seed. There will be no fans, which Williams described as nostalgic, a reminder of when playing in front of nobody was a regular occurrence in her youth.

As the first professional tennis event to take place in the United States, it will be an important reference point for the US Open, which is still due to begin on 31 August. Kentucky reported 573 new cases of coronavirus on Friday as the governor, Andy Beshear, warned: “We are in a place right now where this virus is spreading too much.”

The possibility of contracting coronavirus is of even greater concern for Williams than some of her peers having been in hospital with life-threatening pulmonary embolisms in 2011, during which the blood clots in her lungs destroyed a portion of her lung tissue. She suffered a recurrence in 2017 after giving birth to her daughter, Olympia.

“I have been a bit of a recluse,” she said. “I started social distancing in early March. I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me. I am sure I would be OK, but I don’t want to find out. I have 50 masks I travel with, I don’t ever want to be without one. I am super careful with what I have been doing and everyone in the ‘Serena bubble’ is really protected. It is cool to play tennis, but this is my life and my health, so I have been a little bit neurotic but that is how I have to be.”

Roger Federer turned 39 on Saturday as he continues his attempts to recover from two arthroscopic knee surgeries this year. Williams will be 39 in September as she plots another return from a long lay-off. Asked about 2021 and her plans to compete at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, she said she intends to stay in the moment.

“That is just looking too far ahead, I don’t know if Tokyo plans to be in Tokyo, we will have to wait and see. I don’t know what to expect. One thing I have learned is don’t plan, I am living for the day and for the moment, in a good way but I am not making plans too far out.”