ROME (Agencies): Forget all that speculation about Serena Williams considering retirement after her emotional hand-to-heart gesture upon her Australian Open exit three months ago.
While Williams has not played since losing to Naomi Osaka in the Melbourne semifinals in February, she has been practicing “very intensely” on clay courts and is ready to “start fresh” in her pursuit of Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
Preparing to return at this week’s Italian Open to gear up for Roland Garros later this month, Williams on Monday detailed her recent training regimen.
There was a block of time on clay courts back home in the United States followed by 2½ weeks on the red dirt at the French academy run by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
“So we had an intense several weeks of training — very intense,” Williams said. “I feel good. … I’m going to have some good matches here hopefully, and then I will be at another Grand Slam, which always makes me excited. So I think either way I’ll be ready.”
The 39-year-old Williams, who only needs one more Grand Slam title to match Court’s record, added that her fans shouldn’t read too much into the lack of tennis information she shares on social media.
“I don’t do a lot of sport content, so I do feel like people are wondering if I’m playing, and I have to say I always am, you just don’t see it,” she said. “I don’t show what I do. I don’t always show my cards.”
Williams, a four-time champion in Rome, will face either French Open semifinalist Nadia Podoroska or German qualifier Laura Siegemund in her opening match at the Foro Italico. She’s in the same quarter of the draw as Osaka and has a first-round bye.
“It’s good to start fresh but it’s also hard to start fresh,” Williams said. Williams was also asked if she will play at the Tokyo Olympics if coronavirus protocols mean she can’t bring her 3-year-old daughter into Japan. “I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” Williams said. “We’re best friends.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about,” she added. “Then there is the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”
Osaka ‘not sure’ Olympics should happen
TOKYO: Naomi Osaka says rising Covid-19 levels in Tokyo are a “big cause for concern” and she is “not really sure” the Olympics should go ahead this summer.
Tokyo is under a state of emergency amid a surge in cases, 10 weeks from the start of the rescheduled Games on 23 July. Japanese world number two Osaka would be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo. “I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”
When asked by BBC Sport if it would be appropriate to stage the Games during a pandemic, the 23-year-old said: “To be honest, I’m not really sure.”
The Olympics will take place without international fans, while a decision on whether local fans can attend the Games will be made in June. “I’ve never played an Olympic event, so it’s not like I would have anything to compare it to,” four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka said.
“I would feel, of course, definitely a bit sad, but at the end of the day, it’s an honour to play in the Olympics in the first place and if that’s what keeps people healthy, then I’m up for [playing behind closed doors].”