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Serena Williams won last year's Australian Open while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia but will not be part of this year's tournament four months after giving birth to her first child.
Williams announced Thursday that she would not defend her title on the heels of a loss to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition match last weekend.
"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. "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."
She added: "With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I've decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year."
Williams, 36, won a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title at last year's Australian Open in Melbourne before taking time off from tennis while pregnant with Alexis Olympia, who was born in September.
Williams, who has made a habit of reaching out to other moms on social media to get advice about everything from sleeping with a baby bump to her daughter's teething troubles, beat her older sister, Venus, in last year's championship match.
"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," she said in her statement. "I appreciate the support and understanding of my fans and everyone at the Australian Open."
"Serena transcends the sport in the way she approaches all aspects of her life and consistently gives her all in everything she does,'' Australian Open director Craig Tiley said in a statement Thursday. "It was never going to be good enough for her to just compete, she wants to give herself the best chance to win."
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