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Serena wants assurances over plans for some fans to attend French Open

Sep 7, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, USA; Serena Williams of the United States reacts after her match against Maria Sakkari of Greece (not pictured) on day eight of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Having adjusted to the sight of barren stands inside Flushing Meadows, Serena Williams said on Monday that she has some questions over how players will be protected at the French Open, which plans to welcome a limited number of spectators.

Organisers had earlier said Roland Garros would allow 11,500 fans per day between three showcourts when the tournament starts on Sept. 27 in a departure from numerous professional sports events that have barred spectators amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Williams, who avoids public places and takes a conservative approach to social distancing due to prior health concerns, said she hopes to speak with French Open organisers 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,” said Williams, who suffered blood clots and life-threatening pulmonary embolisms while giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017.

“There (are) a lot of factors that hopefully -- hopefully --they are thinking about, and I’m sure that they are, as this is a global pandemic,” said Williams, who notched her 100th win inside Arthur Ashe Stadium when she beat Greece’s Maria Sakkari at the U.S. Open on Monday.

The 38-year-old American, who is on a quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, said she misses playing in front of the legions of fans who regularly support her but has largely adapted to the unusual circumstances at Flushing Meadows this year.

“I don’t feel like I’m super different without a crowd,” said third-seeded Williams. “I’m super passionate. This is my job. This is what I wake up to do. This is what I train to do 365 days of the year.

“Obviously I miss the crowd, because usually I’m training and I’m playing for the crowd. But now we have a virtual crowd.”

She next faces Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova in the U.S. Open quarter-finals.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris

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