Tennis icon Serena Williams will not compete at next year’s Australian Open after being advised to withdraw by her medical team.
Williams has won seven Australian Open titles, the last of which came in 2017, but has suffered a torrid time with injuries of late. This saw her retire from her first-round match at Wimbledon and miss the US Open.
The 40-year-old is still searching for a record-equalling 24th major win that would bring her level with Australian great Margaret Court.
But the American has been stuck on 23 for four years now, losing four Slam finals in that time. Worryingly, the US star’s performances in major tournaments have gotten steadily worse in this time and it’s perhaps true that Williams has missed her best chances to equal Court’s extraordinary feat.
There was speculation early on Wednesday that Williams’ name had not been spotted on the entry list for the Australian Open in January, and the former world number one later confirmed her withdrawal.
In a statement, she said: “Following the advice of my medical team, I have decided to withdraw from this year’s Australian Open. While this is not an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete.
“Melbourne is one of my favourite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year. I will miss seeing the fans but I am excited to return and compete at my highest level.”
Williams’ forced withdrawal is yet another huge setback for the American, given her impressive record in Melbourne.
Last year, the US star was knocked out by eventual winner Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals and was reduced to tears as she left the Rod Laver Arena.
And after confirming her absence from yet another major, many have speculated that retirement may well be looming for the tennis legend.
In response to Williams’ statement on Twitter, one user wrote: “Alas, the clock is ticking. Mr Federer too. Amazing careers drawing to a close.”
Meanwhile, another echoed this feeling and noticed the American did not confirm she’d be back in Melbourne again.
“Definitely her last year on tour,” the fan wrote. “Notice she doesn’t say she’s excited to come back next year, just that she’s excited to return and compete at her highest level.”
Williams has not commented on these rumours and has previously stated: “If I ever said farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
While Williams’ name was the most obvious omission from the field, men’s world number one Novak Djokovic has been named on the official entry list.
The Serbian’s participation was doubtful after Victoria introduced new regulations that state visitors must be double-vaccinated if they are to be allowed entry.
Djokovic has frequently declined to give his vaccination status, despite these mandatory guidelines.
However, Tennis Australia has said his presence on the entry list is not a guarantee he will play.