‘I need more time’: Serena out of Aus Open
SERENA Williams has put long-term gains ahead of short-term glory by withdrawing from the Australian Open.
The American contacted Tennis Australia to notify organisers she would miss the January 15-28 grand slam after playing only one exhibition match since the birth of her daughter Olympia in September.
"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.
"With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I've decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.
"The memory of last year's Open is one that I will carry with me, and Olympia and I look forward to coming back again.
"I appreciate the support and understanding of my fans and everyone at the Australian Open."
Australian Open Tournament director Craig Tiley expressed his admiration for Serena's efforts to return to the game she loves.
"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," he said.
"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.
"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 eleventh hour to make her final decision.
"We all wish her the very best and I look forward to seeing her back on court this year, and can't wait to welcome her back to the Australian Open in 2019."
Williams, 36, has won 23 singles majors - a tally exceeded only by Australian Margaret Court's 24.
It now seems likely the former world No 1 will return to competition during the US hardcourt swing in either February or March ahead of the French Open in May.
OTHER NOTABLE WITHDRAWALS
Andy Murray: the former world No.1 and five-times runner-up is out due to an ongoing hip injury
Kei Nishikori: the former world No.4 and US Open runner-up is the first big name to officially withdraw after succumbing to a wrist injury.
Svetlana Kuznetsova: the dual grand slam champion and world No.12 will miss the women's event with a wrist injury.
Rafael Nadal: the world No.1 continues to battle a knee injury that forced his withdrawal from Brisbane. Still likely to start but no guarantees.
Novak Djokovic: the six-times Open champion hasn't played since Wimbledon and will make a call after testing his elbow in exhibition events at Kooyong and Melbourne Park.
Stan Wawrinka: the 2014 Open champion also hasn't been sighted in six months as he battles a knee injury that will restrict his build-up to next week's one- night Tie Break Tens.
Victoria Azarenka: the two-time champion and former world No.1 remains locked in a custody battle that is preventing her son leaving California. STRUGGLING Jack Sock: the in-form world No.8 hurt his hip in an on-court tumble at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
Garbine Muguruza: the reigning Wimbledon women's champion retired from the Brisbane International with severe cramps but has since been cleared to play in Sydney next week.
Caroline Garcia: the world No.8 retired from her first-round match in Brisbane with a back injury.