Williams
Serena Williams

Former world number one Serena Williams has withdrawn from this month’s Australian Open.

The 36-year-old American last week played her first match since giving birth in September.

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Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner and the reigning Australian Open champion, said: “Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be.”

On Thursday, Britain’s Andy Murray pulled out of the tournament, which starts on 15 January.

Williams, who is ranked 22nd in the world, 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.”

BBC reported that Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: “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 11th hour to make her final decision.”

Williams lost an exhibition contest against Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi on 30 December 2017, her first match since winning the Australian Open final.

Novak Djokovic, a six-time Australian Open men’s champion, may also miss this year’s tournament with an elbow injury.

The Serb, who has been sidelined for six months, will test his fitness in two exhibition tournaments.