Her withdrawal deprives the opening Grand Slam of the year of another major star, after former world number one Andy Murray and Japan's Kei Nishikori both pulled out injured on Thursday. In Abu Dhabi, Williams was clearly sluggish and had problems with her serve. She also stuck mostly to the baseline and only twice charged the net. Despite this, she made it clear afterwards that she missed being on court and was desperate to play at Melbourne Park, where she has been crowned champion seven times.
Unfortunately @serenawilliams has withdrawn from the #AusOpen.— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 5, 2018
"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."
Good luck for the rest of 2018, Serena! We'll miss you ?
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley expressed his admiration for her efforts to return to the game she loves. "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," he said. "It was never going to be good enough for her to just compete, she wants to give herself the best chance to win. "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."
"I am super close but I’m not where I personally want to be..."— US Open Tennis (@usopen) January 5, 2018
Serena Williams has issued a statement that she will not be defending her title in Melbourne this year as she has officially withdrawn from the Australian Open.https://t.co/afpiQHIFNN
?: #USOpen pic.twitter.com/eHrc7JYKnS
Few players have successfully bounced back after giving birth, and even fewer have managed to go on to win Grand Slam titles. Williams can look to Margaret Court, Kim Clijsters, and Evonne Goolagong Cawley as those who achieved the feat as mothers. A key motivation for her is to match Court, who boasts 24 major titles and is renowned as the most successful player in Grand Slam history, but this must now wait until the French Open at the earliest. The Australian Open starts on January 15, with a host of top names either out or battling to be fit. Murray has returned home after failing to recover from a hip injury sustained last year, while Nishikori has been on the sidelines since August due to a torn tendon in his right wrist.
Serena Williams will not defend her Australian Open title.— BBC Tennis (@bbctennis) January 5, 2018
Four months after giving birth she’s “not where I personally want to be.” pic.twitter.com/BO5Gj14CNd
"I start to feel my calves were cramping. And I continued to think they might go away, and then they were increasing, increasing"— #BrisbaneTennis (@BrisbaneTennis) January 2, 2018
- Garbiñe Muguruza on her mid-match retirement #BrisbaneTENnis pic.twitter.com/tZkTTd2c70