By Sewe Ishola,
Olympic champion and new mom, Serena Williams has reluctantly withdrew from this year’s Australian Open.
The newlywed revealed today, 5th January, that she needed more time to be ready to defend her title.
She said while she was close to regaining full fitness after giving birth to her first child in September, she was not fully ready to defend her title and she didn’t feel inclined to compete just for the sake of competing.
The 36-year-old was eight weeks pregnant last year when she triumphed for a seventh time at Melbourne Park to claim an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam title.
The American then took the rest of the year off before giving birth to a daughter in September.
She 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.
In a statement, she released, Williams said, “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.
After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that although I am super close, I‘m not where I personally want to be
“With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I’ve decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.”
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.
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.
Britain’s Andy Murray and Japan’s Kei Nishikori having already said they would not compete no thanks to hip and wrist injuries respectively.