Serena Williams pulls out of this year’s Australian Open slot which takes place on Friday, saying she needed more time to be ready to defend her title. “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 said in a statement.
She said while she was close to regaining full fitness after giving birth the birth of her first child in September. However, she was not fully ready to defend her title.
The 36-year-old was eight weeks pregnant last year when she triumphed for the seventh time at Melbourne Park to claim an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam title, before taking a year off to give birth.
Williams has played just once in public since, losing to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi last week. But she was still hopeful of making a remarkable return at the Australian Open until she pulled out a week ahead of the event.
“My coach and team always said ‘only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way’.
Williams, whose Grand Slam tally is just one shy of the all-time record held by Australian Margaret Court, said she was disappointed to withdraw but looked forward to returning in the future.
“After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that although I am super close, I‘m not where I personally want to be,” 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.”
Tournament director Craig Tiley called Williams’ efforts to try and be ready for a title defence at the Australian Open “Herculean” and said she transcended the sport.
“It was never going to be good enough for her to just compete, she wants to give herself the best chance to win,” Tiley said.
“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.”
Williams is the latest big name to withdraw from the year’s opening Grand Slam, which will be played from January 15 to January 28.