Serena Williams to miss the Australian Open grand slam in Melbourne

Defending champion is not ready to return after giving birth in September

Serena Williams 2018 Australian Open tennis grand slam
Serena Williams beat her sister Venus to win the 2017 Australian Open women’s singles title
(Image credit: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images)

Serena Williams has withdrawn from this month’s Australian Open after admitting she needs more time to work on her comeback after giving birth to her first child in September.

The defending champion, who beat sister Venus in last year’s final, played the first match of her comeback last week in Abu Dhabi. But although she is “super close” to returning to competitive tennis, Melbourne has come too soon for the 23-time grand slam winner.

Quoted by CNN, the 36-year-old said: “After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that although I am super close, I’m not where I personally want to be.

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“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.”

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Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told the BBC that Williams had waited until the last possible moment to see if she could play down under.

“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 11th hour to make her final decision,” he said.

“Serena transcends the sport in the way she approaches all aspects of her life. It was never going to be good enough for her to just compete.”

It’s the first time since 2011 that Williams has missed the first grand slam of the season and she joins a list of high-profile players not playing in Melbourne.

Yesterday Andy Murray pulled out of the event because of a hip injury. The Japanese star Kei Nishikori has also withdrawn because his injured wrist has not recovered.

According to the BBC, there are also fitness doubts over world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, 2014 winner Stan Wawrinka and six-time champion Novak Djokovic.

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