Wil­liams and Mur­ray head Aus­tralian Open no-shows

The Guardian Weekly - - Sport - Kevin Mitchell

Ser­ena Wil­liams was the lead­ing name among the galaxy of ten­nis stars who have with­drawn from the Aus­tralian Open, which starts on Mon­day. The Amer­i­can – who won the ti­tle last year when seven weeks preg­nant – is within one ti­tle of equalling Mar­garet Court’s all-time grand slam tally of 24, but felt she was not ready to re­turn to the Tour af­ter a long ab­sence.

Just 24 hours af­ter the for­mer men’s world No 1 Andy Mur­ray pulled out to un­dergo surgery on his in­jured right hip, the best player in the women’s game de­cided her prepa­ra­tions had fallen just short of what she needed to be fully com­pet­i­tive.

Kei Nishikori has also with­drawn, and there were lin­ger­ing doubts this week over No­vak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal.

“Af­ter com­pet­ing in Abu Dhabi I re­alised that, although I am super close, I’m not where I per­son­ally want to be,” 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.

“The mem­ory of last year’s Open is one that I will carry with me, and Olympia [her daugh­ter] and I look for­ward to com­ing back again. I ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port and un­der­stand­ing of my fans and every­one at the Aus­tralian Open.”

The 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. This is why she has pushed it and pushed it un­til the 11th hour to make her fi­nal de­ci­sion.”

The Mel­bourne tour­na­ment suf­fered a fur­ther blow when twotime cham­pion and for­mer world No 1 Vic­to­ria Azarenka with­drew. Azarenka’s ap­pear­ance had been in doubt af­ter she pulled out of the Auck­land Clas­sic ear­lier this month amid an on­go­ing cus­tody bat­tle with her for­mer part­ner over their son, Leo.

The US-based Be­laru­sian has not played since Wim­ble­don be­cause she can­not leave Cal­i­for­nia with her son un­til the cus­tody dis­pute is re­solved.

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