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Serena Williams ramps up training to get back into thick of competition

Serena Williams returns the ball during a training session at the Italian Open in Rome on Monday. (AP photo)

ROME —

Forget all that speculation about Serena Williams considering retirement after her emotional hand-to-heart gesture upon her Australian Open exit three months ago.

While Williams has not played since losing to Naomi Osaka in the Melbourne semifinals in February, she has been practicing “very intensely” on clay courts and is ready to “start fresh” in her pursuit of Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

Preparing to return at this week’s Italian Open to gear up for Roland Garros and the French Open later this month, Williams on Monday detailed her recent training regimen.

There was a block of time on clay courts back home in the United States followed by 2 1/2 weeks on the red dirt at the French academy run by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.

“So we had an intense several weeks of training, very intense,” Williams said. “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.”

Serena Williams reacts after winning a point against Romania's Simona Halep during their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 16. (AP file photo)

The 39-year-old Williams, who only needs one more Grand Slam title to match Court’s record, added that her fans shouldn’t read too much into the lack of tennis information she shares on social media.

“I don’t do a lot of sport content, so I do feel like people are wondering if I’m playing, and I have to say I always am, you just don’t see it,” she said. “I don’t show what I do. I don’t always show my cards.”

Williams was also asked if she will play at the Tokyo Olympics if coronavirus protocols mean she can’t bring her 3-year-old daughter into Japan.

“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” Williams said. “We’re best friends.”

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