Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal undecided on Tokyo Olympics with one month left

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal
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Neither Serena Williams nor Rafael Nadal is ready to commit to the Tokyo Olympics, one month before the world rankings cutoff to determine the singles fields.

“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,” Williams said Monday, before she plays Wednesday at the Italian Open, her first tournament since the Australian Open in February. “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.”

Nadal said he, too, must plan his schedule.

“Honestly I can’t give you a clear answer because I don’t know,” he said Tuesday before his first match at the Italian Open. “In a normal world I will never see about missing Olympics, of course. Is no doubt about that. Everybody knows how important have been for me always play Olympics. Under these circumstances, I don’t know.

“I normally know my schedule almost 100% since 1st of January till the end of the season. This year is something a little bit different, no? We need to be flexible. We need to adapt about the things that are happening. Let’s see. I don’t know. I can’t give you an accurate answer. Sorry.”

Olympic tennis entries will be announced by the end of June, drawn from world rankings after the French Open ends on June 13.

This could be the last opportunity for Williams and Nadal to compete in an Olympics.

Williams is 39. Nadal is 34 (though the 2024 Paris Games may be particularly appealing to the Spaniard, given tennis will be played at Roland Garros, where he won 13 French Opens).

Williams, a four-time Olympic gold medalist (three in doubles with older sister Venus), was asked Monday if she would go to the Olympics if it meant being separated from her 3-year-old daughter, Olympia.

“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” she said.

Currently, the U.S. is one of 152 nations “subject to denial of permission to enter Japan.” Obviously, exceptions will be made for Olympians (and that government link notes “special exceptional circumstances”). But what remains to be seen is how far those exceptions will extend.

Overseas spectators will not be allowed inside Tokyo Games venues, but the latest athlete playbook allows for contact with coaches, physiotherapists and immediate members of an athlete’s team during the Games. It also notes guidelines for athletes and team officials staying in private accommodation outside of the Athletes’ Village, potentially a route for Williams.

Olympic organizers have not said publicly if exceptions will specifically be made for athletes with young children.

“I would not be able to go function without my 3-year-old around,” Williams said during the Australian Open. “I think I would be in a depression. We’ve been together every day of her life.”

Nadal, then 18, was the youngest tennis player at the 2004 Athens Games (one year before winning his first major title). He won singles gold in 2008 in Beijing and doubles gold in 2016 in Rio, where he also carried Spain’s flag in the Opening Ceremony.

Nadal is the only one of men’s tennis’ “Big Three” with an Olympic singles title. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are both expected to play the Olympics.

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