September 25, 2020

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Will Serena make it to Paris? She needs answers.

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Serena Williams – as tennis legend Billie Jean King is fond of preaching – is staying in the now.

After a tough three-set victory over No. 15 seed Maria Sakkari, the rising Greek player who defeated her 10 days ago in the “Cincy” event, she’s in the US Open quarterfinals.

That’s still three victories away from Grand Slam No. 24. So there’s a lot of work to do. And she’s not in a position where she can get ahead of herself.

However, big clay-court tournaments are coming up in Rome and Paris – two cities she lives.

She has an apartment in Paris. And Rome is where she met husband Alexis Ohanian.

So …

Questions about safety measures

As Roland Garros said Monday in a statement, the players who will be competing are expected to stay in one of two designated player hotels, as the tournament tries at this late date to create some sort of a bubble.

Rome
Serena looked much better in the late stages of this week’s match against Sakkari.

Williams, who has been extremely vigilant about health measures because of her health history and pre-existing conditions, rented a private home at the US Open.

That apparently won’t be an option in Paris.

“I was hoping to stay at my apartment in Paris, but I’m just taking it a day at a time. Every organization, every country is trying to do the best that they can in this pandemic, so I can’t point fingers and tell them what to do, because I’m not running the tournament,” Williams said.

But unlike the US Open, which does have thousands of staff workers and over 600 people from ESPN alone, Roland Garros will also have fans.

Not as many as usual. Still, they’re planning for 11,500 a day. In a city where there is a resurgence of positive COVID-19 cases, that’s a lot.

“Well, if there are fans, then we should be able to stay elsewhere, then. Yeah, that’s interesting, because there is no private housing but there’s fans. But I kind of knew that,” Williams said.

“You know, obviously maybe it will be good for me to talk to the organizers just to see how that works with the crowd and how we will be protected. They have to make the best decision for them, and I have to do what’s best for me. But I think it should be okay,” she added. “I don’t know what the number (of fans) will be and how close they will be. I think there is a lot of factors that hopefully — hopefully they are thinking about, and I’m sure that they are, as this is a global pandemic.

“Yeah, it’s just — I still have some questions.”

Olympia, nanny and husband can stay in the Rome hotel. But what about the team?

No Olympia in Rome?

As for the Italian Open, which begins in less than two weeks and precedes Roland Garros, there appear to be other issues.

“I don’t know. I’m literally living day to day, because there are so many organizational things that every player has to do and we have to figure out,” she said. “And Rome, you know, there are also organizational things there that I’m not sure how it works, if I can bring my daughter. So that’s going to be interesting. So, yeah.”

For players who are travelling straight from New York to Rome – as Williams will surely be hoping to do – she and her team can arrange to have one final PCR test in the 48 hours before leaving.

Tests, masks, team limits

That test will be required to enter Italy. But the downside is that until that departure, they will be required to continue to isolate.

And then, upon arrival, they will have to undergo another test.

Player Plus Two

Each player will only be allowed two tournament credentials for coaches, team or family. At the US Open, it was three, although only one was allowed access to the player areas.

However, according to the tournament’s fact sheet, players with children are allowed to bring the kids and a caregiver.

As well, players under 18 (hey, Coco Gauff) will be allowed to bring a parent or legal guardian.

That might help Williams’s case. Except it’s hard to do the math on how they’re all going to be able to stay in the hotel.

Rome
Williams had challenges against Sakkari Monday. But her fitness held up and she will play fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarters.

The tournament will book a maximum of three rooms for each player, and a maximum of three people will be allowed at the player hotel.

(But hey, pro tip: starting Tuesday, you can book a room online at the same hotel through the rest of the week – at half the rate the players are paying)

Players will only be allowed to shuttle back and forth with members of their teams. And they will be required to wear a surgical mask everywhere outside their hotel room, except during training, practice, matches and eating.

Social distancing required, too, of course.

The players and teams are “strongly discouraged” from going outside the secure tournament facilities. But “strongly discouraged” is a long way from “we will fine you or pull you out of the tournament.”

And it’s … Rome.