Novak Djokovic to play two exhibition events before Australian Open

Serena Williams won't be competing in Australia

Serena Williams' coach has backed her decision to miss the Australian Open after admitting she wasn't yet ready to compete.

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.

The 23-time Grand Slam victor played her first match since giving birth at the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on December 30, losing her exhibition match to reigning French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko. "I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time".

The 23-time Grand Slam victor defeated her sister Venus in last year's Australian Open 6-4 6-4 and had a second consecutive title in her sights when the tournament started later this month.

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"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", added Williams.

The announcement comes after former World No 1 and four-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray withdrew from the tournament less than two weeks ahead of its start.

Williams' absence, while disappointing for fans and officials, raises the prospect of another first-time grand slam victor making their mark in Melbourne. Venus Williams, defending champion Johanna Konta, and French Open champion Ostapenko are also all set to be in action. The 36-year-old went on to win the tournament, defeating her sister in the final, before taking the remainder of the year off.

"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", Tiley said. There is no word yet on when she will be, but Miami in March may be a good bet.

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