Defending champion Serena Williams withdraws from Australian Open

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Serena Williams unwillingly pulled out of this year's Australian Open, saying that the she is close to regaining full fitness but not at the top of her game and defend her title. But, after losing to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi last week, the pro has chose to take some downtime before heading to the Melbourne competition later this month.

When Williams won last year's Australian Open she was already two months pregnant. Three months later, she announced that she and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, are expecting their first child together.

"After competing in Abu Dhabi I realized that although I am super close, I'm not where I personally want to be", Williams said in a statement Friday.

The world number 22 said: "My coach and team always said "only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way".

"It was never going to be good enough for her to just compete, she wants to give herself the best chance to win", Tiley said.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said Serena Williams waited as long as she could before letting organizers know she wouldn't be able to compete. She also stuck mostly to the baseline and only twice charged the net.

She had won the tournament seven times, with her first victory coming in 2003. On January 4, the tennis champ shared her decision to withdraw from the 2018 Australian Open, and offered a heartfelt explanation as to why.

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. Williams can look to Margaret Court, Kim Clijsters, and Evonne Goolagong Cawley as those who achieved the feat as mothers. After defending his Qatar Open title, the 30-year olds form slumped.

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