Serena Williams Becomes First Star To Confirm Us Open Attendance.

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Serena Williams led the from the front by becoming the first major player to confirm that she will play at the US Open after its dates were confirmed.

The 38-year-old American will try and win her 24th Grand Slam singles title when the event is staged under highly restrictive conditions from August 31 for two weeks.

‘I really cannot wait to return to New York and play,’ she said. ‘I feel the USTA (Tennis Association) is going to do a really good job of ensuring everything is amazing and everything is perfect and everyone is safe.’

She added that she will miss the fans who, along with the media, will be excluded under strict anti-Covid-19 protocols at what is normally a teeming and noisy Flushing Meadows.

Williams may have been swung by relaxations in the rules which will control how many people players can bring with them, and where they can stay.

In response to concerns already expressed by top players, they will now be allowed to stay privately if they wish to go to the expense, and not be bubbled in the official tournament hotel.

This will have to be done through an official US Open estate agent, who will not be offering properties in Manhattan. Players will also be allowed to bring three support staff on site, going some way to answer concerns of the big names.

The next month will determine whether or not there is a full turnout, now that both men’s and women’s tours have announced provisional calendars to try and salvage the season.

Having suffered severe constipation compared to other sports in producing comeback plans, a glut of information was released by tennis about its future schedule, which are all subject to wider developments in the coronavirus crisis.

The WTA Tour announced 20 events beginning on August 3 in Palermo, going through to late November.

The men announced a package of events going through to mid-October, with the Madrid, Italian and French Opens being confirmed. A further announcement will be made next month, but there is optimism that November’s ATP Finals at London’s 02 Arena can still happen, subject to government advice.

Early indications are that some players will still require some persuading to travel.

Nick Kyrgios complained via Twitter that there had been a lack of collaboration with the players and labelled ATP Tour Chief Andrea Guadenzi a ‘potato’.

More soberly, Wimbledon champion Simona Halep reiterated her opposition to travelling, although she promised she would reassess the situation.

Stacey Allaster, the US Open Tournament Director, also confirmed that the Cincinnati Open would be played at Flushing Meadows the week beforehand, at the expense of the Grand Slam’s qualifying event.

‘We have 59 days until we open the tournament hotel,’ she said. ‘We will be opening discussions (with players) to help them understand the plan.. They will make their own decisions.’

On the relaxation of accommodation restrictions she added: ‘We will provide options for the athletes. They are used to staying in private houses at Wimbledon and other places so if they want to invest in a private home they can.’

She did not want to put a figure on how many will actually turn up, but with a total of $60million on offer for the Open and the supplementary event moved from Cincinnati the large bulk of players can be expected to go.

They are working with local health authorities on removing quarantine restrictions for arrivals, and there will be a strict testing regime for everyone going on site. Provisions have been made to isolate anyone who tests positive.

Among the strange conditions will be a much reduced count of officials on duty. Outside the two main show courts there will be only three ballkids and no line judges, with all the calling done by Hawkeye.

Meanwhile a note sent to male players, seen by Sportsmail, has warned that there will be prize money reductions at the ATP Tour events remaining this season.

The first main tour men’s event back will be the Citi Open in Washington, taking place on August 14, while the lower tiers of the tennis tour will also resume in August.

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