Serena Williams out of Australian Open

Defending champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from this month’s Australian Open in Melbourne.

The former world number one was due to make her return to court and defend her title in Australia just four months after giving birth to a baby girl.

But in a statement, Williams confirmed that she still wasn’t in sufficient shape to compete in 2018’s first major after losing an exhibition match to reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi last week.

“After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that although I am super close, I’m not where I personally want to be,”
said the 23-time major winner.

“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.”

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.”

The first Grand Slam of the year has already been hit by a spate of withdrawals, with the likes of five-time runner-up Andy Murray and Japan’s Kei Nishikori pulling out on the men’s side.

There are also fitness concerns regarding top seeds Rafael Nadal and six-time champion Novak Djokovic, although Nadal has landed in Melbourne and was seen hitting the courts.