Serena yet to decide on French Open over health concerns


Serena Williams is yet to decide whether she will play in this month’s French Open after tournament organizers announced players would not be allowed to stay in private accommodation.

Williams, speaking after reaching the US Open quarter-finals for the 16th time, could be one of those who does follow Barty in withdrawing as she would prefer to stay in private accommodation due to her health issues.

Williams, 38, has a history of lung problems and was also concerned by the decision to allow fans into the Grand Slam. All players must stay in one of two tournament hotels in Paris.

“I’m just taking it a day at a time,” Williams said.

“I was hoping to stay at my apartment in Paris. I feel the French, they are doing the best that they can.

“So, I can’t point fingers and tell them what to do, because I’m not running the tournament.”

She said: “If there are fans, then we should be able to stay elsewhere.

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“It’s just, for me, I’m super conservative because I do have some serious health issues, so I try to stay away from public places, because I have been in a really bad position in the hospital a few times. So, I don’t want to end up in that position again.

“I’m going to have to make the best decision for my health. Maybe it will be good for me to talk to the organisers just to see how that works with the crowd and how we will be protected.”

Last year’s champion and world number one Ashleigh Barty has pulled out of the tournament, which starts later this month, because of coronavirus concerns.

The 24-year-old Australian, who also opted not to compete at the US Open, said: “Although I am disappointed on a tennis front, the health and wellbeing of my family and my team will always be my priority.”

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) announced earlier on Monday that a total of 11,500 fans will be able to attend each day of the French Open.

The two-week event begins at Roland Garros in Paris on 27 September after being moved from its May date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spectators will be given tickets for one of three ‘zones’ and have to stay in that area during the day, while the wearing of masks will be mandatory for everyone over the age of 11 and players and personnel will be regularly tested.

The zones including the centre court, Philippe Chatrier, and the second court, Suzanne Lenglen, will both have a maximum of 5,000 fans each.

A further 1,500 spectators will be allowed into the zone containing the third court, Simonne Mathieu.

Qualifying, which begins on 21 September, will be played behind closed doors and there will be no tickets sold for some of the outer courts during the main tournaments.

The FFT said it has followed “advice from a committee of expert scientists” and is “acting responsibly and in close collaboration with the French Government authorities to draw up a strict protocol that will ensure the health and safety of everyone”.

France has had more than 328,000 cases of Covid-19 – the 14th highest figure in the world – with more than 30,700 deaths.

The country had more than 8,000 cases recorded on both Friday, 4 September and Saturday, 5 September.