Up until a few weeks ago, Serena Williams was believed to be a favorite to defend her title at this year’s Australian Open, but the superstar has now said she won’t be competing in Melbourne.
Serena Williams Australian Open 2018 news
The 36-year-old, 23-time grand-slam winner — who gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Olympia, in September — contacted Tennis Australia this week to notify organizers she would miss the tournament, which begins Jan. 15.
Williams played an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi last weekend.
“After competing in Abu Dhabi I realized that although I am super close, I’m not where I personally want to be,” she said. “My coach and team always said ‘only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way.’ I can compete — but I don’t want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time.”
“With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I’ve decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.”
When Williams won last year’s Australian Open, she was already two months pregnant.
“The memory of last year’s Open is one that I will carry with me, and Olympia and I look forward to coming back again,” she added. “I appreciate the support and understanding of my fans and everyone at the Australian Open.”
Williiams — who was raised in Compton, California, and subsequently West Palm Beach, Florida — broke Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 23 grand slams last January with a seventh title at Melbourne Park. She needs one more grand slam title to match Margaret Court’s all-time record.
Australian Open Tournament director Craig Tiley expressed his admiration for Serena’s efforts to return to the game she loves.
“The true champion Serena is has been demonstrated in the herculean efforts she has made over the past few months in her desire to play the Australian Open,” he said.
“Serena transcends the sport in the way she approaches all aspects of her life and consistently gives her all in everything she does. “
Williams is currently ranked No. 22 in the world. Her announcement of pulling out of Melbourne follows that of former World No. 1 Andy Murray, who revealed on Thursday he would be forgoing the opportunity to play in the tournament due to an ongoing hip injury.
Former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori of Japan has also withdrawn from the Open, citing his continuing recovery from a wrist injury.
It also remains uncertain whether six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic will play in the year’s first grand slam.
The Serbian 12-time grand slam winner said on Wednesday that he will make a decision on whether to participate after taking part in two exhibition events next week.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 26: Serena Williams of the United States serves in her semifinal match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia on day 11 of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)