Serena Williams announced Thursday that she will not be playing in next week’s Australian Open, saying she didn’t want to compete in a tournament she felt she couldn’t get all the way through to a championship. Last week, the 36-year-old played in her first competitive match since giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, on Sept. 1.
Of that exhibition match, which she lost to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, Williams said in a statement posted on Snapchat, “After competing in Abu Dhabi I realized 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 continued. “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.”
After winning last year in Melbourne, defeating her sister Venus for her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, Williams revealed that she had competed at the tournament only a couple of days following the discovery that she was approximately eight weeks pregnant. Saying in April that she had been “nervous” about playing in such a condition, Williams added, “I really felt that I didn’t have time to deal with any extra emotions, any extra anything, because, pregnant or not, no one knew, and I was supposed to win that tournament as I am every tournament that I show up [for]. If I don’t win, it’s actually much bigger news.”
Williams took the rest of the 2017 season off and had her daughter with then-fiance Alexis Ohanian (now her husband), before she was said by Aussie Open tournament director Craig Tiley to want to “defend her title.” Just before Christmas, she thrilled her fans by announcing that she would play in the exhibition against Ostapenko, but they will have to wait a bit longer to see her in a more consequential match.
“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,” Tiley said Thursday in a statement. “Serena transcends the sport in the way she approaches all aspects of her life and consistently gives her all in everything she does.
“It was never going to be good enough for her to just compete, she wants to give herself the best chance to win. This is why she has pushed it and pushed it until the eleventh hour to make her final decision.”
The other winners of 2017 Grand Slam women’s singles titles — Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza (Wimbledon) and Sloane Stephens (U.S. Open) — are set to compete at Melbourne. Those three, all ranked in the WTA’s top 13, will be joined by the likes of Simona Halep (No. 1), Caroline Wozniacki (3), Karolina Pliskova (4), Venus Williams (5) and CoCo Vandeweghe (10).
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