Williams and Murray head Australian Open no-shows
Serena Williams was the leading name among the galaxy of tennis stars who have withdrawn from the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.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Kei Nishikori has also withdrawn, and there were lingering doubts this week over Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal.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.