No. 1-ranked tennis player Serena Williams called the spate of withdrawals from the Olympic Games “sad” but said she understands many of the golfers’ hesitations.
“I think for me, the most important thing is knowledge and protection, to know what I’m going into,” she said Tuesday at Wimbledon, after being told that Jason Day joined the list of stars who won’t make the trip to Rio.
“It is really one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had. It’s difficult for someone that is in a sport like golf because their main goal, like tennis, is to win Slams.”
Eleven golfers now have withdrawn from Olympic consideration, with that total expected to rise in the coming days and weeks. In tennis, No. 1-ranked American John Isner is the most notable player to pull out of the Olympics, but he cited a lack of prize money and world-ranking points, not the Zika virus, as his main reason for skipping the event.
Williams, who is the defending singles and doubles champion, was asked whether Day, Rory McIlroy and others were missing out on an opportunity to be a part of golf’s historic return after a 112-year absence.
“I don’t know if they’re missing out,” she told reporters, “I mean, everyone’s experience is different. My experience has been really amazing at the Olympics. I really loved going out there and competing, you know, standing out there and being an Olympic athlete. …
“I think it is sad. But at the same time I obviously understand where they’re coming from and how they feel. Part of me feels that way, too, which is why I’m going in with a whole mindset of how do I protect myself, how do I prevent and also raise awareness for this? That’s kind of how I’m looking at it.”
Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, said Tuesday after learning of Day’s withdrawal: “Everyone keeps dropping off, one by one. Nobody wants to go. But hopefully I get to go soon.”