Serena Williams still planning to play in US Open

Serena Williams remains committed to playing the US Open later this month and is also open to travelling to Europe for the clay-court season.

Williams announced she would be playing in the forthcoming grand slam in New York this summer, but since then a host of top names have pulled out of the tournament due to fears over Covid-19.

Defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal and women’s number one Ashleigh Barty are the highest-profile withdrawals, but Williams says she will still play before travelling to Europe for the French Open the following week.

“I see myself doing it all if it happens,” she said ahead of her appearance at the Lexington Open in Kentucky next week.

“But I am not planning for the future, as tournaments got cancelled I was just like, ‘Let me just work on today and see what happens’.”

The 23-time grand slam champion’s openness towards playing is at odds with her attitude during the pandemic.

Williams, who suffered health complications during her labour in 2017, was a self-confessed “recluse” during the lockdown and took strong precautions.

“I have been a little bit of a recluse. I started social distancing in early March,” she said. “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 like 50 masks that I travel with, I don’t ever want to be without one.

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“With health concerns 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 right now.”

During the lockdown, separated from her coaching staff and phsyios, the 38-year-old resorted to building her own tennis court and gym.

“Tennis is naturally a social distanced sport,” she said. “It was easy for me to walk on my side of the court and my hitter to walk on the other side of the court.

“Florida was a really bad place to be so we were extreme with our social distancing. It was a completely different experience, but that is the only real learning curve.

“I had to make a gym and my husband made a court for me. I guess that is different! We built a tennis court and gym, it is super cool.

“The gym is not quite done. The tennis court is fun, I go there and it is my own sanctuary. It’s like, ‘Why haven’t I done this 20 years ago?’.

“It is really cool. It is fun, I’m like, ‘It’s the US Open surface, come and hit with me’. I have been trying to get people to come.

“It was really nice and it is cool because it got me out of the house. I drove there so I had a little separation, it has not been all physical, physical.

“The gym is fun, I am still working on equipment, slow and steady. This is a new normal, I don’t know when I will go to a gym again, I don’t want to risk it for my health.”