Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open on January 5, 2018 and announced she would not defend the title she won while pregnant.

The American had kept secret the fact she was expecting her first child as she swept to a 23rd grand slam title in 2017, defeating sister Venus 6-4 6-4 in the final.

Williams gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September of the same year and ultimately decided to delay her return to the big stage.

Williams had played an exhibition match on December 30 in Abu Dhabi against Jelena Ostapenko, testing out her fitness in a 6-2 3-6 10-5 defeat, and that prompted her decision to sit out the new year’s first grand slam.

She said: “After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that, although I am super close, I’m not where I personally want to be.

“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.”

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: “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.


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“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 went on to reach four more grand slam finals but did not win another title before retiring in 2022.

Coco Gauff says Serena and Venus Williams are the reason she has won the US Open.

American teenager Gauff picked up her first grand slam title at her home major, coming from a set down to beat Aryna Sabalenka 2-6 6-3 6-2.

Gauff’s father Corey used to take his young daughter to Flushing Meadows to watch the Williams sisters in action.

And the gilded duo, with eight US Open titles between them, inspired an eight-year-old Gauff, filmed dancing in the stands inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, to follow in their footsteps.

“It’s crazy. I mean, they’re the reason why I have this trophy, to be honest,” said Gauff.

“They have allowed me to believe in this dream, you know, growing up. You know, there wasn’t too many black tennis players dominating the sport.

“It was literally, at that time when I was younger, it was just them that I can remember.

“Obviously more came because of their legacy. So it made the dream more believable. But all the things that they had to go through, they made it easier for someone like me to do this.

“I mean, you look back at the history with Indian Wells with Serena (when she was booed in 2001), all she had to go through, Venus fighting for equal pay.

“Yeah, it’s just, like, it’s crazy and it’s an honour to be in that same kind of line-up as them.”

Gauff’s day of destiny saw her became the first American teenager to triumph at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams in 1999.

The latter’s final farewell to tennis at the same championships last year left a colossal void in tennis in the US.

So it felt entirely appropriate that Gauff, the heir apparent to the 23-time grand slam winner, stepped into her shoes 12 months later.

Gauff used her acceptance speech to thank “the people who didn’t believe in me”.

The 19-year-old was at a low ebb after losing in the first round at Wimbledon, but she has since won 18 of her past 19 matches and picked up three titles, including the big one in the Big Apple.

“I would say for sure a little bit after the Wimbledon loss, honestly I just felt people were like, ‘oh, she’s hit her peak and she’s done’. It was all hype,” she added.

“I see the comments. People don’t think I see it but I see it. I’m very aware of tennis Twitter.

“Honestly after that, I was like, OK, I have a lot of work to do. So I think this means a lot to me. I wish I could give this trophy to my past self so she can be, like, all those tears are for this moment.”

Venus Williams’ 24th US Open was brought to an abrupt end inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night.

The two-time winner, handed a wild card at the age of 43, was beaten 6-1 6-1 in the first round by Belgian Greet Minnen.

The American said: “I have to give credit to my opponent, there wasn’t a shot she couldn’t make.

“I don’t think I played badly, it was just one of those days where I was unlucky.

“I was really happy to be here. I love playing here and I really gave it my all today.”

Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur had to overcome breathing difficulties to battle past Columbia’s Camila Osorio.

The Tunisian had her blood pressure checked at one point before securing a 7-5 7-6 (4) victory.

France’s Caroline Garcia, seeded seven, suffered a shock exit, 6-4 6-1, to world number 114 Wang Yafan of China.

Canadian Laylah Fernandez, the runner-up to Emma Raducanu two years ago, lost in three sets to Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Venus Williams’ valiant efforts at the Rothesay Classic in Birmingham ended in a second-round defeat by Jelena Ostapenko.

The 43-year-old pulled off her best victory for nearly four years with a three-hour win over Camila Giorgi in the first round on Monday despite struggling with a right knee problem.

She had the joint strapped up again on Thursday and took a long medical timeout during the second set for treatment to her right thigh in what looked like being a straight-sets loss.

But Williams saved a match point at 3-5 in the second set and then reeled off three straight games as second seed Ostapenko lost her rhythm.

When she moved 2-0 ahead in the deciding set with evening drawing in, it appeared Williams might be on course for back-to-back wins for the first time since 2019.

But Ostapenko, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, recomposed herself and eventually powered her way to a 6-3 5-7 6-3 victory.

The Latvian said: “Of course I could finish it a bit quicker. I got a little bit disappointed after the match point in the second set. But Venus is a great player, a great champion and it’s an honour to share the court with her.

“She’s a very dangerous player, especially on grass. She was serving really well. It was a little bit hard, but I’m really happy that I managed it and I was fighting until the very last point. She’s an idol for a lot of people so it was very special.”

Williams, who made her Wimbledon debut in 1997, will now hope to recover in time for another tilt at the All England Club, having been awarded a wild card.

Ostapenko will next play Pole Magdalena Frech, who battled past eighth seed Sorana Cirstea 6-3 6-7 (1) 6-4 in a match delayed for nearly two hours by rain.

Britain’s Harriet Dart will take on fourth seed Anastasia Potapova, who defeated American Caty McNally on a deciding tie-break.

Meanwhile, there will be an all-Czech quarter-final between top seed Barbora Krejcikova and 18-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova.

Fruhvirtova was already through to the last eight and former French Open champion Krejcikova joined her by seeing off another Czech player, Tereza Martincova, 6-4 6-4.

Five-time Wimbledon singles champion Venus Williams has been awarded a wild card for next month’s championships.

Williams, who played mixed doubles at the All England Club last year, has not played in the singles event since 2021 but rolled back the years on Monday to beat Camila Giorgi at the Rothesay Classic in Birmingham days after her 43rd birthday.

Williams competes sparingly these days and only played her first tournament since January at a grass-court event in the Netherlands last week before heading to Birmingham.

Her gutsy 7-6 (5), 4-6 7-6 (6) victory over Giorgi in more than three hours on Monday represented a first win over a top-50 opponent since 2019.

Ten singles wild cards have been handed to British male and female players, including Liam Broady and Katie Boulter, while Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina will be involved in Wimbledon after she missed last year’s tournament due to her pregnancy.

Former world number three Svitolina gave birth in October but made the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last month in her first grand-slam since becoming a mother.

Svitolina made the last four at Wimbledon in 2021 and could encounter more Russian and Belarussian players in SW19.

She was booed at the French Open after not shaking hands with Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka following her quarter-final exit.

British hopefuls Jodie Burrage, Harriet Dart, Katie Swan, Heather Watson have also been given wild cards.

In the men’s singles Ryan Peniston has received a wild card, along with fellow Britons Arthur Fery, Jan Choinski and George Loffhagen, with the trio set to make their main draw debuts at Wimbledon.

Belgian David Goffin, the world number 124, has been handed a wild card following his run to the quarter-finals in 2022, where he lost in five sets to British number one Cameron Norrie.

The All England Club has one more women’s singles and two more men’s singles wild cards to hand out.

Coco Gauff is excited about the prospect of players from the United States winning both singles titles at the same grand slam again following a bright start to the Australian Open for the men.

The last American to win the men's singles crown at any grand slam was Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open.

The USA is still way out in front for all-time grand slam men's singles titles with 147, though 19 years and counting is comfortably their worst barren spell during the Open Era.

This comes after 2003 was the 15th year in a row that the USA had at least one champion in the men's majors, with the likes of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi both prolific winners.

Of course, the drought did not extend to the women, with Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin all winning at least once since Roddick's success at Flushing Meadows.

But with eight of the last 32 in the men's draw representing the USA, there is a renewed sense of optimism – and that is even accounting for their highest seed, number eight Taylor Fritz, falling in the second round.

Gauff – who beat compatriot Bernarda Pera on Friday – is the USA's next great female hope, and she is looking forward to the day Americans claim a men's and women's double at the same slam.

Asked if there was a refreshing sense of excitement around the men, Gauff said: "Yeah, definitely. I definitely think on the men's side they're thriving.

"It's like eight people in the round of 32 I saw. I think it's incredible. It's just people that you've been rooting for for a long time, and some new faces, too, that people probably haven't been rooting for a long time but fell in love with.

"I'm just excited. On the women's side, we're always like, 'the guys need to catch up, you guys need to put in your work'. I think they're here. I'm hoping that eventually, hopefully soon, we'll have our slam champion on the men's side.

"That would be pretty cool if an American woman and guy could win the same slam. I don't know when the last time that's happened or if it's ever happened. I'll be pretty excited."

Coincidentally, it last happened at Melbourne Park. In 2003, Andre Agassi and Serena Williams were victorious at the Australian Open.

Gauff is not getting carried away, but her perception is there is genuine belief among the men now, which is being fed by unity.

"I definitely think the guys are feeling it," she said. "You can see it. I think it really comes from, not the women, but the same dynamic, where everybody is doing well, so it makes you want to do well.

"We're all not competing with each other but pushing each other. I think that's what the men are having.

"They're competing against each other but also pushing each other to be better. I'm pretty sure all the American guys get along, at least that's what I think."

There were setbacks to American men's title hopes on Friday as Frances Tiafoe and Mackenzie McDonald both lost at the last-32 stage, but there was a hugely notable win too, with Sebastian Korda beating seventh seed, two-time Australian Open runner-up and former US Open champion Daniil Medvedev in straight sets.

Venus Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open due to injury and Iga Swiatek's participation could be in doubt.

The American was given a wildcard for the first grand slam of the year, but suffered an injury setback at the ASB Classic this week.

Williams was beaten by Zhu Lin of China in the second round of the tournament in Auckland on Thursday and it was revealed on Saturday she will not play at Melbourne Park.

The 42-year-old, who has shown incredible longevity in her illustrious career, is a seven-time grand slams singles champion and winner of 14 major doubles titles.

Williams won four of her grand slam doubles crowns at the Australian Open and lost her two singles finals in 2003 and 2017.

Australian Kim Birrell has been awarded Williams' wildcard place nine days before the tournament gets under way.

Meanwhile, world number one Swiatek has withdrawn from the Adelaide International 2 next week due to a shoulder injury.

Swiatek was in tears after she was beaten by Jessica Pegula while representing Poland against the United States in the United Cup on Friday.

Linda Noskova produced the biggest win of her career as she defeated Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 at the Adelaide International on Monday.

The 18-year-old Czech was impressive against the third seed as she recorded her first win against anyone in the top 30 of the world rankings.

Fourth seed Veronika Kudermetova eased past Amanda Anisimova in just an hour and 15 minutes, winning 6-3 6-0, while Liudmila Samsonova will face second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the next round after coming from a set down to beat Zhang Shuai 5-7 6-3 6-0.

Irina-Camelia Begu and Elena Rybakina also both came from behind to secure wins, with the latter beating fifth seed Danielle Collins to set up a last-16 clash against Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, who beat Jaimee Fourlis 6-1 3-6 6-4.

At the ASB Classic in Auckland, 42-year-old Venus Williams comfortably overcame her 21-year-old opponent Katie Volynets 7-6 (7-4) 6-2, and will play China's Zhu Lin next after she eliminated sixth seed Madison Brengle 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4.

Third seed Leylah Fernandez beat Brenda Fruhvirtova 6-1 6-1 to set up a last-16 tie with Julia Grabher after she defeated Tereza Martincova in three sets.

Eighth seed Rebecca Marino is through after beating Dalma Galfi in straight sets and will now face Ysaline Bonaventure, who eventually put away Caty McNally 5-7 6-4 6-4.

Viktoria Kuzmova led fourth seed Bernarda Pera 5-4 in the opening set when rain stopped play for the day.

Tennis icon Venus Williams will compete in her 22nd Australian Open in January after it was announced on Sunday she had been awarded a wildcard entry.

Williams, 42, is a seven-time grand slam singles champion, but she only played four competitive matches in 2022, losing all four.

A five-time Wimbledon winner with two US Open titles on the singles side, Williams is also one of the sport's most decorated doubles players, collecting another 14 grand slam doubles titles, including four in Australia.

She won the Australian Open doubles in 2001, 2003, 2009 and 2010, while making the singles final in both 2003 and 2017.

In the press release announcing her wildcard, Williams confirmed her plans to compete once again in Melbourne.

"I am very excited to be returning to Melbourne to compete at the Australian Open in January," she said.

"I've been competing in the country for over 20 years now and the Australian community has always supported me wholeheartedly.

"It will be an honour to play for the fans again and I'm looking forward to making more memories at the tournament this year."

It remains to be seen if she will be joined by her sister, Serena, who is a seven-time singles champion at the event and Venus' partner for her four doubles successes.

After her exit from the US Open, Serena heavily implied she was weighing up another go down under, saying "I always did love Australia".

Coco Gauff believes her and fellow teen Robin Montgomery are products of Venus and Serena Williams' legacy as the Roland Garros runner-up looks to inspire the next generation of African-American talent.

The two 18-year-old Americans collided in the opening round of the San Diego Open, with Gauff prevailing 6-3 6-3 in what was her first match since defeat by Caroline Garcia in the US Open quarter-finals last month.

This season's Roland Garros finalist is widely believed to be the next dominant player from her nation following the retirement of Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows.

Along with sister Venus, the Williams sisters won a combined 30 major singles titles during their highly decorated careers, as well as 14 grand slam triumphs in women's doubles, in which they are also the only pair to win a career golden slam.

And Gauff hopes she can follow the sisters' well-trodden footsteps, while also going on to serve as an inspiration herself.

"It definitely affects the future a lot," she said during her post-match interview. "If Serena and Venus saw this today; two 18-year-olds - both African-American - playing on the WTA 500 level - I think they would be proud.

"I think both of us are products of their legacy. I'm grateful that I had those examples to follow after, and I hope I can be an example myself."

On the match, she said: "It was the first time playing someone younger than me in probably at least seven years. It was definitely a different feeling for me.

"I know Robin very well, we went on a couple of USTA trips back when we were about eight-years-old. She played really well, I expected a good level from her. I was pretty impressed with how well she was striking the ball; it was difficult for me."

Serena and Venus Williams saw hopes of one last US Open glory run together scuppered by a Czech pair who apologised for knocking out the American superstars.

The Williams sisters lost 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 against Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova on Arthur Ashe Stadium, with the doubles match given top billing in the New York night session.

Such scheduling had previously been unheard of, but such is the attention being foisted on the sisters that first-round doubles encounter was the match everyone wanted to see, knowing it could well be the last time the siblings play as a team.

Serena has indicated, albeit couched in somewhat vague terms, that this US Open will be her farewell to tennis. Venus, now 42, may follow suit and also retire from the sport.

While 40-year-old Serena remains in the singles, having beaten world number two Anett Kontaveit in round two to set up a Friday night clash with Ajla Tomljanovic, the dream of one more Flushing Meadows doubles title is over.

It was Czech-out time for the duo who have won 14 grand slam doubles titles together, and Hradecka said sorry to the partisan crowd for spoiling the party.

"I'm still in shock that we won, because we were playing for the first time with each other and I think we did a very good job," Hradecka said.

"I'm so sorry for you that we beat them, but we are so happy that we did it."

Hradecka had been planning on playing with Indian Sania Mirza, but an injury for Mirza put paid to that idea, meaning a new partner was required.

Noskova, 17, answered the 37-year-old Hradecka's call, and enjoyed a night to remember.

"Playing against the Williams sisters is a special moment for everybody, anytime," Noskova said.

"I was really lucky I could play with my doubles partner and we could win and pull out a good fight."

It was the Williams' first doubles match at a grand slam since the 2018 French Open, and their first at the US Open since 2014, and although it was a tight contest the younger pair just had the edge.

Neither sister gave an on-court interview or a press conference after the match, with all eyes now turning towards Serena's singles campaign, and the possibility of that extending deep into the second week.

Serena Williams and sister Venus were unable to advance past the first round of the doubles at the US Open, going down 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 against Czech duo Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova on Thursday.

It was the Williams' first doubles match at a grand slam since the 2018 French Open, and their first at the US Open since 2014, less than 24 hours after Serena's stunning upset of world number two Anett Kontaveit.

Leading 5-4 in the first set, the sisters had two opportunities to break and secure the first set, but ultimately let them slip, before going down in a competitive tiebreaker.

They were far from outclassed, winning 48 per cent (49-of-102) of the points in the opening set, and 45 per cent (33-of-74) in the second.

After going down 3-0 in the second frame, instead of rolling over, the Williams sisters fought back, pulling it back to 4-4, but that would be their last stand before dropping the next two games and the match.

There was no on-court interview for the Americans, although 17-year-old Noskova called it "a special moment" and said "I was really lucky" for the opportunity to play against her heroes.

Serena will continue her singles campaign in the third round on Saturday night against unseeded Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.

Venus Williams says she is "focused" on her US Open women's doubles pairing with sister Serena following her first round exit to Alison Van Uytvanck on Tuesday, adding that she couldn't turn down "the boss" one more time.

The seven-time grand slam singles champion saw her solo stint at Flushing Meadows come to an early end following a 6-1 7-6 (7-5) straight sets loss to the Belgian at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Following younger sister Serena's announcement earlier this year that she intended to step back from top-level tennis following the conclusion of the final tennis major of the year, many had wondered if Venus would follow suit.

But speaking after her defeat, Williams eschewed questions on her future, simply stating: "Right now, I'm just focused on the doubles."

The return of the Williams sister pairing – the only duo to have won the Career Golden Slam in women's doubles – has added a further degree of excitement to Serena's farewell tour.

When asked how their on-court reunion came about, Venus stated it was her sibling who got the ball rolling, adding: "It was Serena's idea.

"She's the boss, so I do whatever she tells me to do! I don't think we have played since 2016, but I might be getting that wrong. We have had some great wins. It would be nice to add some more."

Former world number one Williams made her 91st grand slam main draw singles appearance with her match against Van Uytvanck, a record for both the men's and women's game.

It is a testament to her longevity that 58 players in the main draw had not been born when she made her grand slam debut at the 1996 French Open – including this year's Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who also suffered a first round loss to the unseeded Clara Burel.

Serena Williams will go out with "full force" when she begins her final US Open campaign before retiring, according to Chris Evert.

Williams will have one last chance to match Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles at Flushing Meadows, as well as an opportunity to wave goodbye to her adoring fans on home soil.

While a challenge for the trophy looks highly improbable for Williams this time around, fellow six-time US Open winner Evert suspects the 40-year-old will take some shifting from the draw.

According to Evert, "the edge is off" when it comes to Williams and her remaining tennis goals, meaning she has reconciled herself to the likelihood of finishing her career with 23 singles majors.

Williams has revealed family matters and business interests were key to her decision to "evolve away" from the sport, and with her on-court returns diminishing, now seems the time to head in that direction.

Yet Evert can see Williams, who faces Danka Kovinic in round one in New York, giving a good account of herself during her US Open swansong.

"Serena isn't coming out to play her last match; she's coming out with full force," Evert said on ESPN. 

"The way she's been practising this week, she's here to compete, she's here to win, and I don't even think she's thinking about retirement at this stage."

Williams holds a 106-14 win-loss record in singles at the US Open. Her match wins tally at Flushing Meadows is the highest by any woman at the competition in the Open Era, and only Martina Navratilova has more at a single slam, achieving an astonishing 120 victories at Wimbledon.

Williams and Evert lead the way in women's US Open titles in the professional era (since 1968), and regardless of final grand slam tallies, there will always be debate over who ranks as the greatest player of all time.

Williams certainly has a strong case, yet Navratilova (1,442), Evert (1,309) and Steffi Graf (900) all won more WTA-level matches than Williams (856), who often played a limited schedule.

Court has the most grand slam titles on the women's all-time list, with a remarkable haul of 64 when women's doubles and mixed doubles are included. Navratilova is next with 59, before Williams and Billie Jean King sit joint third with 39 majors apiece.

Scheduling self-preservation has allowed Williams to play on for so long, and John McEnroe has raised the question of what might happen if his fellow American surprises herself by clinching a seventh Flushing Meadows triumph. 

"If she did happen to win this, don't you think it'd be tempting to go and break the record?" McEnroe asked.

Four-time US Open singles champion McEnroe added: "I think she's accepting, as much as Serena Williams can, that she's not going to win this.

"Maybe deep down she's found some sort of belief that maybe somehow, if she gets the right set of situations going, she can make a real run."

More realistic, in McEnroe's mind, is the prospect of Williams and sister Venus having a deep run in the doubles after they were handed a wildcard.

As a partnership, the siblings have won 14 grand slam doubles titles, never losing in a final at the majors.

"The two of them in doubles, where they're covering half the court and they're still able to do their thing, that would be a hell of a way to go out," McEnroe said.

Serena and Venus Williams have accepted a wildcard entry to play the women's doubles at the US Open.

The two-time doubles winners at Flushing Meadows are likely to appear at the tournament for the final time in 2022, with Serena having already announced her intentions to soon retire from tennis.

Both sisters have entered the singles draw, with Serena facing Danka Kovinic in round one while Venus begins her campaign against Alison van Uytvanck.

The pair have not played a major doubles event together since the 2018 French Open, suffering defeat in the third round, and were last paired in New York in 2014, when they reached the quarter-finals.

However, the duo boast 14 major doubles titles and three Olympic gold medals together and are to be reunited again after the US Open announced the 14 wildcard pairs for the doubles events on Saturday.

Serena's involvement at the US Open begins on Monday, with Venus following on Tuesday, before the first round of the women's doubles is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

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