Serena 1

Serena OUT of the Australian Open

REIGNING champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from this year’s Australian Open.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner has played just one match since giving birth in September and said: “Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be.

The 36-year-old, who won last year’s trophy while eight months pregnant, has played just one match since the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia.

Serena said: “After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that although I am super close, I’m not where I personally want to be.

“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.”

She is the third high profile withdrawal this week, after Andy Murray decided to miss the tournament as he continues his recovery from hip surgery. Men’s world No 4 Kei Nishikori also pulled out because of a wrist injury, while there are fears that Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic may all miss the tournament as well.

Serena returned to the court on December 30 at the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, where she lost an exhibition match against Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 3-6 10-5. Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said:

“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.

“Serena transcends the sport in the way she approaches all aspects of her life and consistently gives her all in everything she does.

“I’ve been in constant contact with Serena and her team and know this is why she has pushed it and pushed it until the eleventh hour to make her final decision.

“We all wish her the very best and I look forward to seeing her back on court this year, and can’t wait to welcome her back to the Australian Open in 2019.”

It will be the first time Williams, who has won in Melbourne seven times, has not played Down Under since 2011. – Online