Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Sydney International.
Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Sydney International.

Sydney misses out on Serena comeback

SYDNEY has missed out on the comeback of Serena Williams to competitive tennis after the American superstar pulled out of next week's tournament.

Her participation in the Australian Open remains unclear, though tournament director Craig Tiley said Williams was "desperate" to return to defend her title.

Sydney International officials had remained hopeful the 23-time grand slam singles champion would play alongside sister Venus Williams at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre from Sunday to prepare for the ­Australian Open.

However, late Thursday afternoon Williams informed them she would not be playing, leaving her comeback plans a mystery.

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Sydney International.
Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Sydney International.

Sydney has missed out on Williams but will boast the other three 2017 grand slam winners in Jelena Ostapenko (French), Garbine Muguruza (Wimbledon) and Sloane Stephens (US).

"Serena will focus her time and attention on the defence of her crown in Melbourne," Sydney's tournament director Lawrence Robertson said.

"For the time being she wants to do that outside of the competitive environment.

"We've got such a tough tournament here, especially in the women's field with seven grand slam cham­pions. And when you're trying to come back from what Serena is, it is understandable if you don't want to go up against that calibre of competition.

"We totally respect and understand her decision. We were hopeful all the way that she'd be here but it isn't to be."

Williams, 36, has spent nearly a year out of competitive tennis, taking maternity leave after last year's Australian Open, which she won by defeating Venus 6-4 6-4 in the final while three months pregnant.

She gave birth in September to daughter Alexis Olympia, whose initials purposely match the Melbourne grand slam event.

Williams did play an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi on December 30, losing 6-2 3-6 10-5 to Ostapenko.

Tiley said Williams was working hard to play in Melbourne.

"I'm in touch every day with her and her management team and she wants desperately to be here," Tiley said.

"I still believe she will be (here).

"She has made it very clear to me that this is her favourite event and that's why she will do everything she possibly can to be here.

"I'm pretty confident in my communications that she wants to be here. And when Serena wants something, she normally gets it.

"I think it's just her assessing whether she's ready to play."

Williams could play in the Koo­yong Classic in Melbourne from January 9-12, or opt to do private training as her warm-up to the Australian Open should she decide to play.

After her exhibition match in Abu Dhabi, she spoke of how she longed for the competitive stage once more.

"I missed the crowd and the atmosphere," she said.