Serena Williams in Melbourne
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Serena Williams is not concerned that finally breaking through for her record-equaling 24th major singles title at the US Open would be cheapened by the thinned-out field as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It still has to be tennis that’s played, asterisks or not,” Williams said on Friday during a Zoom conference before the Western & Southern Open, which usually takes place in Cincinnati but starts this weekend in New York.
“I think this whole year deserves an asterisk, because it’s such a special year, history we have never been through in this world, to be honest, not this generation, not this lifetime. It’s just in history, period.
“So I think we are living a future history lesson. So I think regardless, there is always going to be some asterisk by it, because it’s never been done before. And if you win, it was, like, wow, I was able to win in this crazy circumstance where there was no fans. It was just so sterile and weird but I mentally came through. It might be a more mental test than anything.”
On Monday, Simona Halep became the player to drop out of what is typically the final grand slam of the year. The world No 2 became the sixth top-10 player on the women’s side to withdraw from a tournament that has already lost both its defending champions in Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu.
Williams, who has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms that have affected her lung capacity, admitted her concerns about travelling to New York during the pandemic, but said the USTA chief executive, Stacey Allaster, allayed her fears.
“For me, it’s been a different experience, and, you know, I’m really a little intense,” she said. “You might see me walking around with my hazmat glasses and everything, and mask, obviously. But for me, like, this is a little bit deeper than just playing tennis. It’s, like, OK, I have health issues and I don’t necessarily want to get sick, and if I do, I want the good version.”
The world No 9 confessed there was a time when she believed the Western & Southern Open and US Open were beyond salvaging because of the country’s patchy response to the pandemic.
“There was definitely a point where, in the beginning, I was, like, ‘There is no way these tournaments can even happen,’” she said. “But I had a lot of great talks with several people at the USTA and the protocols they have are so intense, it definitely helps me to feel safe. I see every day they are following through on those protocols.
“Obviously, it goes bigger than the USTA. The government has to be involved and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at some level, so that also makes me feel a lot better.”
The Russian tennis player Yana Sizikova has been arrested in Paris by French police as part of a match-fixing investigation. Sizikova, a 26-year-old doubles specialist, was taken into custody on Thursday night in relation to an investigation dating back to October for sports corruption and organized gang fraud.
The Los Angeles county sheriff says detectives have determined what caused Tiger Woods to crash his SUV last month in Southern California but would not release details Wednesday, citing unspecified privacy concerns for the golf star. Woods suffered serious injuries in the Feb. 23 crash when he struck a raised median around 7am in Rolling Hills Estates, just outside Los Angeles. The Genesis SUV he was driving crossed through two oncoming lanes and uprooted a tree on a downhill stretch that police said is known for wrecks. Woods is in Florida recovering from multiple surgeries.
Tiger Woods has had surgery for multiple fractures of his right leg after a car accident that a Los Angeles police officer said he was “very fortunate” to have survived. The golfer was “awake and responsive” after the operation to insert a rod into his tibia and stabilize his ankle with pins, according to a statement by his TGR foundation on Tuesday night.
A few hours after Serena Williams walked out of Rod Laver Arena, beaten in the late stages of a grand slam tournament once more, the Eurosport team had converged in front of the cameras to discuss the day’s play. There stood Barbara Schett, last active 15 years ago, who played against Williams three times, and via video link, Williams’s former rival Justine Henin, who retired in Melbourne 10 years ago.