Serena Williams will not play at next month’s Australian Open, the 23-times grand slam singles champion saying her level of fitness is not good enough to compete at the first major tournament of 2022.
Williams, who won the last of her seven Australian Open titles in 2017, had an injury-disrupted season and has not played since she limped out of her first-round match at Wimbledon in June with a leg injury.
Tournament organiser Craig Tiley had said last month that the 40-year-old American, who needs one more grand slam title to match Margaret Court’s record of 24, would be playing at Melbourne Park.
The American posted her withdrawal on Wednesday morning on Twitter, saying: “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’s name was the most obvious omission from the field with the 20-times grand slam champion Roger Federer having already confirmed that he would skip the event as he recovers from another round of knee surgeries. Stan Wawrinka, who won the first of his three grand slam titles at Melbourne Park in 2014, was also absent from the men’s field.
Men’s world No 1, Novak Djokovic, has been named on the official entry list but has declined to disclose his vaccination status despite all players, officials, staff and fans at the 17-30 January tournament at Melbourne Park needing to be inoculated against Covid-19. Tennis Australia has said that his presence on the list was not a guarantee the Serb would play.