23 Grand Slam winner Serena Williams announced on Friday that she will not be defending her title in Melbourne this year as she was not convinced she could win it.
Seven-time Australia Open champion beat her sister Venus in last year’s final in Melbourne, and later revealed that she was pregnant while competing in the tournament.
Williams gave birth to her daughter Alexis in September and returned to play in an exhibition tournament last weekend in Abu Dhabi to test her match condition, but indicated after her loss to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko that she might not travel to Melbourne.
In a statement on Snapchat, she wrote: “After performing in my first match after giving birth 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.
Williams added “With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I’ve decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.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. I appreciate the support and understanding of my fans and everyone at the Australian Open.”
The 36-year-old Williams needs only one more major title to equal the all-time record held by Margaret Court, who won 13 of her 24 Grand Slam titles before the Open era began in 1968.
Williams’ withdrawal came less than 24 hours after fellow former world number one, Andy Murray, withdrew from the men’s event with chronic hip injury.
British number one Jo Konta is an injury doubt while Kei Nishikori is suffering from a wrist problem, and there are doubts over the fitness of Novak Djokovic (elbow) and Rafa Nadal (knee).
Three women who have returned after having babies to win Grand Slam singles titles in the Open era, are Margaret Court and fellow Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who won the 1977 Australian Open seven months after giving birth to daughter, Kelly, and added her second Wimbledon title in 1980. Kim Clijsters returned from retirement after having a daughter, Jada Elle, in February 2008, and won the 2009 U.S. Open in her third tournament back.