MELBOURNE. – Seven-time champion Serena Williams will be back at the Australian Open tennis tournament in 2019 having missed her title defence this year after giving birth, organisers said yesterday.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner, who won on her last appearance in 2017 while pregnant, will be joined in January’s tournament by double Melbourne Park champion Victoria Azarenka who was forced to withdraw from the 2018 event because of a custody battle with her baby’s father.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley yesterday said he was expecting a full contingent of the top 100 men and women players in Melbourne next year.
“I’m delighted to announce that Serena Williams will return to the Australian Open in January,” Tiley said while launching the 2019 event at Rod Laver Arena.
“We last saw Serena here in Melbourne as our champion, holding the Daphne Ackhurst Memorial Cup in 2017. Of course what we didn’t know at the time was that she was already eight weeks pregnant with baby Olympia,” said Tiley.
Williams needs one more Grand Slam singles victory to equal Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
“Serena loves coming to Melbourne and I know she’s excited about returning in January with her family, it’s definitely a very special place for her,” said Tiley.
“She’ll also be super-focused on winning here, and equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.”Tiley said the tournament was gearing up to welcome back Azarenka and Williams – and their children.