Serena Williams is coming to New York to make another run at Grand Slam history.
As a number of top players express concerns about whether to play in this year’s U.S. Open due to the coronavirus, Williams has put her trust in the U.S. Tennis Association to keep players and other tournament staff safe come August.
“Ultimately, I really cannot wait to return to New York and play the U.S. Open 2020,” Williams said Wednesday over a U.S. Open video conference call. “I feel like the USTA is going to do a really good job of ensuring everything is amazing and everyone is safe.”
Williams, 38, is one of the first big stars to publicly announce plans to compete at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens this summer. New York City was once the COVID-19 epicenter of the U.S. The borough only a few short months ago was the hotspot for the virus in the Big Apple. The tournament grounds were even being used as a field hospital to hold and treat the overflow of COVID-19 patients at hospitals in the area.
Even with the number of cases and hospitalizations in the borough, city and state decreasing, other parts of the country are seeing the opposite, as social distancing and stay-at-home orders are being relaxed in many states.
Either way, it’s key for the USTA to know they have a big name on their side, when others seem to be planning to skip the tournament.
Men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic said in an interview with Serbia’s state broadcaster RTS he was considering skipping New York and would instead start his season at the pandemic-delayed French Open.
“Most of the players I have talked to were quite negative on whether they would go (to New York),” Djokovic said Tuesday. “For me currently, as things stand, most probably the season will continue on clay at the beginning of September.”
The French Open was moved to run from Sept. 21 to Oct. 11, postponed from its usual May running over coronavirus concerns. The U.S. Open would be the second Slam of the season to go on as scheduled and the second to be played in 2020 — the Australian Open ran in January. Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since WWII.
Williams hasn’t won a U.S. Open singles title since 2014 when she defeated Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets. She’s come close to matching Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slams four times in the last two years — she was the runner up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2019.
Although time is against the running of most professional sports games and tournaments because of fears of a second wave of the coronavirus wreaking havoc, time is also against the aging Williams.
“It’s gonna be exciting,” Williams said. “It’s been over six months since a lot of us have played professional tennis. I’ll certainly miss the fans, don’t get me wrong. Just being out there with that New York crowd and hear everyone cheer, I’ll really miss that in some of those tough matches. But this is crazy, I’m excited.”
It’s yet to be seen who else will make the trip back to Flushing Meadows, but one thing is for certain: Serena Williams will be there … waiting for her next challenger.