Serena Williams has decided not to compete at this year’s Australian Open in Melbourne.
The 36-year-old had been planning to try and defend the title she claimed last year, for the seventh time in her superb career.
But, having given birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia in September, the 23-time Grand Slam champion has decided she is not quite feeling sharp enough to take part in the season’s first major, which starts on January 15.
The American showed plenty of promise in an exhibition defeat to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi last week.
However, she said on Friday morning: “After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised 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.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: “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.
“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.
“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.
“We all wish her the very best and I look forward to seeing her back on court this year, and can’t wait to welcome her back to the Australian Open in 2019.”