Williams set for Australian Open return

By Sports Desk December 05, 2018

Serena Williams will return to the Australian Open in 2019 as she goes in search of a record-equalling 24th grand slam title.

The former world number one has not featured on the WTA Tour since the US Open – when she was beaten in the final by Naomi Osaka.

Williams' straight-sets defeat at Flushing Meadows was overshadowed by a row with umpire Carlos Ramos, who she labelled a "liar" and a "thief" after being penalised with a game penalty following code violations for on-court coaching, racket abuse and verbal abuse.

The Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi is scheduled to be Williams' next tournament at the end of the month, providing her with a platform to be ready for the first grand slam of 2019 when she could match Margaret Court's record of 24 titles.

Williams has not featured in Melbourne since winning her 23rd major title in 2017 while pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia, who was born the following September.

Her return was confirmed by tournament organisers on Wednesday, with Simona Halep and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki also in the field.

Wow I only know the word ace pic.twitter.com/Ji7FbPhCpr

— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) December 5, 2018

Andy Murray will be included in the men's draw alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The Briton spent much of 2018 recovering from injury and will use his protected ranking of number two at the event, which begins on January 14.

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    The 21-year-old has never gone beyond the quarter-finals at a major but claimed a third ATP Masters 1000 title in 2018 and won the ATP Finals to finish the season ranked fourth in the world.

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    "But so far, he finds it difficult to be focused on the court. Last year he lost games in Roland Garros, he played five-set matches against people he's supposed to beat.

    "Then in the US Open he lost against [Philipp] Kohlschreiber, in a [third-round] match that theoretically he was superior. So, in grand slams, mentally it cost him a lot.

    "Keeping the same intensity in long matches at grand slams is his pending subject. He is a player that is used to playing an amazing set, then a not very good set, another better, the other bad. So, to keep consistency from the first to the last set, it is something he has to improve."

    Ferrero thinks Zverev is the only young player on the ATP Tour capable of winning majors on the scale of iconic trio Roger Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (17) and Novak Djokovic (14).

    "Zverev will be 22 next year, but he hasn't won a grand slam yet. He has to hurry up and win titles," said the 2003 French Open winner.

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    "At the moment, I can't see any other players reaching the numbers of Roger, Rafa or Novak."

    Zverev split with Ferrero following what he described as a "fight" after this year's Australian Open, but the coach put their parting of ways down to a lack of discipline.

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    "He is German, with a Russian family, and it is just that we have different cultures. I have been working my whole life in a different way. I tried to transmit different things for him to be a bit more professional in different aspects... but it was just to improve.

    "I wasn't criticising him. He didn't understand it like that, and we went our own ways."

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    The luckless Argentine missed the ATP Finals in London last month as a result of a fall during his third-round match against Borna Coric at the Shanghai Masters.

    Del Potro on Friday offered a positive update on his recovery ahead of the new season.

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