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Serena Williams’s Olympic participation might depend on whether she can bring her daughter

Serena Williams, shown here in 2019, called daughter Olympia her “best friend” and suggested she would not attend the Tokyo Olympics without her. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Serena Williams suggested Monday that she would not participate in this year’s Tokyo Games if she is not allowed to bring her 3-year-old daughter, Olympia.

“I haven’t really thought much about that. That’s a really good question,” Williams told reporters in Rome ahead of this week’s Italian Open. “I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself. We’re best friends.”

Fans from foreign countries will not be allowed to attend this year’s Olympics in an attempt to lessen the spread of the coronavirus. Athletes in Tokyo also are expected to avoid interacting with non-athletes when possible and have been advised to steer clear of public transportation, according to International Olympic Committee guidelines.

Japan also has closed its borders to people from 152 nations, including the United States, denying entry unless “unless special exceptional circumstances are found.”

Williams added Monday that the Grand Slam schedule also could be a factor in keeping her away from this year’s Games.

“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 said. “Then there is the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I really have been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”

The Olympic tennis tournament begins July 24, just 14 days after the women’s final at Wimbledon, which Williams has won seven times. It ends Aug. 1, only 29 days before the U.S. Open is set to begin.

For comparison’s sake, the 2016 Olympic tournament in Brazil began Aug. 6, nearly a month after the end of Wimbledon.

Williams, 39, is seeking her 24th career Grand Slam title, which would tie the open-era record set by Margaret Court. She has not played in a tournament since her semifinal ouster by Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open in February but said Monday she has been practicing on clay in preparation for the French Open, which begins May 23.

“So we had an intense several weeks of training — very intense,” said Williams, who has three doubles and one singles title at the Olympics. “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.”

Osaka was asked Monday whether she thought the Tokyo Games should go forward considering the pandemic, Japan’s struggles to vaccinate its population and widespread public opposition to the event there.

“Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I’m an athlete and that’s sort of what I’ve been waiting for my entire life,” said Osaka, who would represent Japan at the Games.

“But I think that there’s so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year,” Osaka added. “I think a lot of unexpected things have happened and if it’s putting people at risk, and if it’s making people very uncomfortable, then it definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now.”

Last week, vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech announced they would donate vaccine doses to help inoculate Olympic athletes and officials. The IOC has been pushing for Olympic athletes to get vaccinated ahead of the Games.

“I feel like whatever makes everyone more comfortable and more safe. There’s going to be a lot of people entering the country, so they definitely have to make the right decisions on that,” Osaka said. “I’ve gotten vaccinated. At the end of the day you can’t force anyone to be vaccinated.”

“If you’re going into the Olympics and whatever, make the host country happy,” she added.

More about the Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics have come to a close.