Serena Williams reluctantly pulled out of this year’s Australian Open on Friday, the American saying that 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.
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 and then took the rest of the year off before giving birth to a daughter.
She has played just once in public since, losing to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi last week, but was still hopeful of making a remarkable return at the Australian Open until she admitted defeat 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’. 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.
Williams had told Vogue magazine last August about her “outrageous plan” to defend her title but the short turnaround after giving birth has proven too much for even the greatest player of her generation.