Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open as she is not yet ready to make a comeback from injury.

Williams has not played since suffering a torn hamstring at Wimbledon in June.

The 40-year-old stated last month that she was "better" and planned to play in the first grand slam of 2022 at Melbourne Park.

Williams will not go in search of a record-equalling 24th major title next month, though, revealing she is not fit enough to take her place in the draw.

She said in a statement: "Following the advice of my medical team, I have decided to withdraw from this year's Australian Open. While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete. 

"Melbourne  is one of my favourite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year. I will miss seeing the fans but am excited to return and compete at my highest level."

The legendary American's last grand slam triumph came at the Australian Open in 2017.

While Williams will not compete, world number one Ash Barty will participate, as will US Open champion Emma Raducanu and four-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka.

Novak Djokovic has been included in the official entry list for the 2022 Australian Open, with Tennis Australia adamant that no loopholes are being explored.

The world number one, who has won nine of his 20 grand slam titles in Melbourne, has not yet disclosed his COVID-19 vaccination status, meaning there is doubt over whether he will be able to participate.

Every person competing or attending the grand slam next month will need to have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

However, despite the uncertainty, the 34-year-old was named in the official list of players for the tournament draw.

Djokovic had already been named in Serbia's team for the ATP Cup, which is to be held in Sydney, leading to speculation that he could enter Australia by travelling directly to New South Wales, which has different COVID-19 restrictions to the state of Victoria, and may then seek a medical exemption to get around the rules applying to unvaccinated travellers.

James Merlino, Victoria's deputy premier, responded to these reports, which also suggested Djokovic had the backing of Tennis Australia.

"My view on this is really clear and really simple," Merlino said on Wednesday. "Everyone's looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

"They're the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players. It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition."

Tennis Australia responded to Merlino's comments with a statement of their own.

"Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking 'loopholes' within this process is simply untrue. Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we," the statement read.

"Any application for a medical exemption must follow strict government guidelines based on ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) clinical advice. This is the same process that applies to any person wanting to enter Australia."

While Djokovic's participation is unclear, Serena Williams is a big-name absentee. The 40-year-old, who is one shy of matching Margaret Court's record tally of 23 grand slams, had been expected to play in Melbourne.

Roger Federer had already confirmed his absence, but Rafael Nadal is set to compete for the first time since August.

World number two and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev takes his place in the draw, as does 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

Australian world number one Ash Barty headlines the women's field, with Naomi Osaka, US Open winner Emma Raducanu and WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza also in the draw.

Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, has decided to skip the event to focus on her mental wellbeing.

Serena Williams has said she is "devastated and shocked" by the case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts have become a mystery sparking international concern.

Doubles grand slam winner Peng is said to have been missing since making sexual assault allegations against a former top Chinese government official.

She posted on Chinese social media site Weibo allegations against Zhang Gaoli – the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee – claiming he had forced her to have sexual relations with him.

The head of the women's tour, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon, has questioned the veracity of an email purportedly written by the two-time major doubles champion saying that she is safe.

Now 23-time grand slam singles winner Williams has added her powerful voice, stating: "I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent."

WTA boss Simon said he had "a hard time believing" the email in Peng's name had come from the 35-year-old player herself. The message stated the allegations of sexual assault were not true and that Peng was "resting at home".

Former world number one Williams said she was "sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time", adding the hashtag "#whereispengshuai" to her Twitter message.

Williams and Peng have faced each other four times in their careers, with the American winning each of their singles matches, the most recent in 2014, while Peng and Sun Tiantian beat Williams and sister Venus Williams in doubles in Bangalore in 2008.

There has been concern throughout sport and beyond for the wellbeing of Peng, a French Open and Wimbledon doubles winner.

On Wednesday, Simon said it was important that there was "independent and verifiable proof that she is safe", saying the statement issued in her name "only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts".

He said he had made efforts to contact Peng "via numerous forms of communication, to no avail", saying she must be allowed to speak "freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source".

Peng's social media post containing her allegations, along with all of her other content, has been removed from Weibo.

Four-time major winner Naomi Osaka also spoke up this week, with the Japanese star stating: "Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."

Serena Williams says the hamstring injury that forced her out of Wimbledon in the first round is "better" and she plans to play at the 2022 Australian Open. 

The site of her last grand slam crown in 2017 will be Williams' next chance to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 career slam titles. 

The 40-year-old tore her hamstring while playing Aliaksandra Sasnovich at SW19 in June and recounted the injury in an appearance Thursday on Jimmy Kimmel Live. 

"I was actually winning and I went for a shot and I heard this noise and I was like ‘oh no’," Williams said. "I felt it but I felt like 'OK, let me just keep trying', but it was bad and I was like, ‘oh man’.

"I love the grass, it’s something special walking out at Wimbledon, wearing all white and being on the green grass [but] it just wasn’t for me this year.”

The injury kept Williams out of the US Open, where she has not won since 2014 but reached the semi-finals in 2020 and the final in 2018 and 2019. 

While disappointed to miss her home slam, which she has won six times, Williams told Kimmel her recovery is on track and she "definitely" expects to play in Australia in January. 

"The hamstring is better," she said. "It took a long time. It took forever, but it's much better now." 

Williams is a seven-time champion in Melbourne, the most of any woman in the open era. 

 

 

Novak Djokovic has history in his sights as he begins his US Open quest; after three grand slam titles in 2021, a fourth beckons at Flushing Meadows.

Rod Laver was the last man to achieve a sweep of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open singles in the same year, all the way back in 1969.

Steffi Graf won all four on the women's side in 1988, and it seemed a knock-in that Serena Williams would do likewise in 2015 when she headed to the US Open with three majors already bagged.

But winning any title at that level is never easy, and Williams famously came unstuck when she faced Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals.

Djokovic will be mindful that what seems an inevitability to the outside world remains very much still only a possibility. After his US Open tribulations last year, and a recent jolt at the Olympics, he will know anything can happen.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how Djokovic's situation at Flushing Meadows carries most of the hallmarks of Serena's own position as she headed into the tournament six years ago.

 

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SLAMS

It was not always this way, but Djokovic has reached the point in his career when he can choose targets, decide which records he wants to break, and throw everything at those goals.

At the start of the year in Australia, he savoured triumphing at Melbourne Park for a ninth time and pointed to how Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Williams and Margaret Court had achieved so much.

"They've made history already," Djokovic said. "They made a tremendous mark in our sport. I'm trying to build that and develop that myself in a very unique, authentic way that is suitable to me.

"Whether I think about winning more slams and breaking records, of course. Of course, I do. And most of my attention and my energy from this day forward, until I retire from tennis, is going to be directed in majors, trying to win more major trophies."

It had very clear echoes of Williams in 2015, also in Australia, setting out her own ambitions for the year and specifically targeting the French Open and Wimbledon.

"Those are the two I really have my eye on, because I would like to do better at those. And I know I can do better," she said.

Williams set her heart and mind on that twin challenge and won both.

"I definitely am not going to play as much this year, and I'm just going to go for everything when I do play," said Williams.

 


BUILDING UP

When Williams reached New York in August 2015, she had delivered a 48-2 win-loss record for the season, landing each of the majors alongside the Miami Open and the Western and Southern Open. Petra Kvitova in Madrid and Belinda Bencic in Toronto had been the only two players to get the better of the 33-year-old Williams.

Djokovic has a 38-5 record for the year, albeit it has the feel of a more dominant year for the 34-year-old Serbian. Two of those losses came at the Olympics, in a semi-final and bronze medal match, and the other three came in his first three events on clay, losing to Dan Evans in Monte Carlo, Aslan Karatsev in Belgrade and Nadal in Rome.

When it mattered on clay, though, Djokovic majorly turned up in Paris, gutsily beating Lorenzo Musetti from two sets down in the fourth round, ending Nadal's streak of four Roland Garros titles by sinking the Spaniard in the semi-finals, and then leaving Stefanos Tsitsipas devastated in the final, with another fightback after dropping the first two sets.

Wimbledon followed, and Djokovic by then was openly targeting a Golden Slam – each major and the Olympic title.

Much like with Williams and her loss to Bencic in the Toronto semi-finals six years ago, however, Djokovic showed he was fallible as history beckoned. From a set up, he lost to Alexander Zverev at Tokyo 2020, a blow that was compounded by missing out on bronze when Pablo Carreno Busta sprang another shock.

 


HISTORY CAN BE A FIERCE OPPONENT

Williams and Djokovic have won non-calendar Grand Slams before, winning four in succession spanning two seasons.

Williams first achieved that from the French Open in 2002 to the Australian Open in 2003, and in 2015 she was aiming for five slams in a row at the US Open, having begun her dominant streak at her home grand slam the previous year.

She won the first set of the semi-final against Vinci, the world number 43, but was then second best to the Italian, with Williams saying her conqueror "played literally out of her mind".

But the disappointment was stark, underlined by Williams' terse response to the question of how disappointed she felt by the result.

"I don't want to talk about how disappointing it is for me," she said. "If you have any other questions, I'm open for that."

The four-in-a-row feat has only been performed once by Djokovic, from Wimbledon in 2015 to the French Open in 2016. Had he not been disqualified during the US Open last year for carelessly hitting a ball that struck a line judge, he would most likely currently be on a four-slam streak.

Those who win the first three slams of the year often do complete the set, but there are four instances of singles players falling one short by failing in the year's last major.

Before Williams, the most recent case was Martina Navratilova in 1984, when the imperious left-hander headed to the Australian Open – then played at the end of the year rather than the start – in pursuit of the Grand Slam. She lost to Helena Sukova in the semi-finals, and said: "If I'd have won, I'd have done it all. If I lost I had to start from scratch. Both are hard to cope with."

Navratilova had won 74 consecutive matches until that loss and ended the season with a 78-2 record.

In the men's game, Jack Crawford (1933) and Lew Hoad (1956) also fell short, both losing in finals of the US National Championships, the tournament that became the US Open. Don Budge (1938) and Laver (1962 and 1969) are the only men to have won a calendar Grand Slam in singles.

The weight of expectation is immense for Djokovic as he pursues what would be his crowning glory, not only sealing the Grand Slam but reaching 21 majors, one ahead of Nadal and Federer and into the outright lead in the men's game. The prospect cannot be ignored, and it will be a heavy burden to carry over the coming fortnight.

As Djokovic said on Friday: "I would be lying if I said that’s not something that I’m thinking about or that my attention is not going that way.

"I’m very motivated to play my best tennis. But I have to hit one ball at a time, as they say, try to be in the moment, have a guiding star in a way, a dream to win a slam here."

Patrick Mouratoglou says Serena Williams' "heartbreaking" withdrawal from the US Open was the "only possible decision" for the American.

Williams on Wednesday revealed she will not play in her home grand slam due to injury.

The 23-time major champion has not played on the WTA Tour since suffering a torn hamstring at Wimbledon in June and she has not fully recovered.

Mouratoglou, Williams' coach, stated that pulling out of the final slam of the year was the only option for the six-time US Open singles champion.

He tweeted: "Since she had to pull out from Wimbledon, @serenawilliams has been fully committed to her recovery and we've done everything we could so that she could compete at the @usopen. But her body isn't ready. It is heartbreaking, but this is the only possible decision."

Williams posted on Instagram earlier in the day: "After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the US Open to allow my body to heal completely from a torn hamstring,

"New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world and one of my favourite places to play – I'll miss seeing the fans but will be cheering everyone on from afar. Thank you for your continued support and love. I’ll see you soon."

Williams, who turns 40 next month, is the latest high-profile withdrawal from the tournament after Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal pulled out through injury

It will be the first time since 1997 that the US Open will be played without Williams, Federer or Nadal.

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the US Open after failing to fully recover from a torn hamstring.

The 23-time grand slam champion, who won six of those titles at Flushing Meadows, has not played on the WTA Tour since sustaining the injury at Wimbledon in June.

She skipped last week's Western and Southern Open in the hope of being ready in time for the her home major in New York, but has now taken the decision to pull out of the event.

"After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the US Open to allow my body to heal completely from a torn hamstring," Williams posted on her Instagram account on Wednesday.

"New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world and one of my favourite places to play – I'll miss seeing the fans but will be cheering everyone on from afar. Thank you for your continued support and love. I’ll see you soon."

Roger Federer turned 40 on Sunday amid uncertainty over whether he will grace the stage of a grand slam again.

Both he and Serena Williams, who reaches the same birthday landmark in September, have kept their future plans under wraps.

However, it would come as no surprise now if one, or both, were to retire by the end of the year.

Injuries are taking their toll, and even the greatest champions cannot go on forever.

Stats Perform looked at both Federer and Williams, considering what they may still want to achieve, and their prospects of attaining those remaining goals.

 

Federer's final fling?

Ahead of his 30th birthday, Federer was asked what it felt like to hit such a milestone.

"Birthdays happen. They're part of life," Federer said. "I'm happy I'm getting older. I'd rather be 30 than 20, to be honest. To me it's a nice time."

A decade on, Federer has good reason to be satisfied with life as he chalks up another decade. Family life is good, he'll never need to borrow a dollar, and he has advanced from 16 grand slams to 20.

But the knees would sooner be 30 than 40, and Federer, remarkable sportsman though he is, looks to have entered the lap of honour stage of his career – if he can even complete such a lap.

Two knee operations in 2020 were followed by a setback that ruled him out of the Olympics and will also keep him sidelined for the Toronto and Cincinnati tournaments before the US Open.

Will Federer make it to Flushing Meadows, where he won five successive titles at the height of his career? There has to be doubt over that, and should he indeed be an absentee in New York, what is there left to target? The Laver Cup, perhaps, a tournament in which he is financially invested and which is due to be played in Boston in late September.

Would he play on in 2022? Could he tolerate more long road trips without his family, living in a tennis bubble?

Target: Federer has never settled for second best, and it may have dawned on him at Wimbledon that in all probability he no longer can win a grand slam. Losing a 6-0 set to Hubert Hurkacz on the way to a quarter-final exit would have hurt. The hunger does not go away after 20 grand slams, but Federer's battle-weary body is sending him messages. He will want to go out on his own terms, which means getting fully fit.

Prospects: Assuming the knee issue is not a major problem, and more of a niggle, then Federer could still play the US Open, Laver Cup, Indian Wells and Paris Masters this year. If the mind is willing but the body does not comply, however, then it would not be a shock to see him call time before the Australian Open comes around in January.


Serena still one short of Court

From precocious teenager to queen of the tour, Williams' tennis journey has been a 25-year odyssey and there is nobody more driven to succeed than the great American.

It is an intense frustration that she remains rooted on 23 grand slams, one short of Margaret Court's record haul, and the four grand slam final losses she has suffered while on that mark have been cruel blows.

As her 40th birthday approaches on September 26, prospects of matching Court are fading. The leg injury that cruelly forced her out of Wimbledon in the first round was a harrowing turn of events, given she looked primed to be a big title challenger in London.

She is becoming less of a factor when looking at title favourites, but Williams is still capable of beating top players, still a threat wherever she shows up. It comes down to whether the body lets her chase her goals, and whether the pain of so many near-misses in recent years persuades this great champion the exertion is no longer worth prolonging.

Target: The 24th slam has been the must-have for Williams. Tour titles feel like an irrelevance, and Williams has won just one of those since January 2017, her calendar built around peaking for the majors since returning from giving birth to daughter Olympia.

Prospects: Beating Aryna Sabalenka and Simona Halep at the Australian Open demonstrated Williams still has the game for the big stage, and a semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka, to whom she has now lost in three of four encounters, should not particularly detract from that. Wimbledon felt like a golden opportunity, with a host of major rivals absent and others struggling for form. There is no doubt she felt that way. Getting to 24 – and beyond – has shifted from feeling like an inevitability to being an odds-against chance now.

Roger Federer is in the draw for the US Open, but it remains unclear whether he will be fit to take part in the final grand slam of the year.

The United States Tennis Association confirmed on Wednesday that Federer was one of six former men's champions to receive direct entry into the draw.

Federer this month withdrew from the Olympic Games, citing a setback with his knee, on which he had two surgeries in 2020.

The Swiss, though, expressed his desire to return the tour, with Flushing Meadows providing his last chance to add to his tally of 20 major titles in 2021.

A five-time winner in New York, Federer has not reached the final at the US Open since 2015.

In the women's singles draw, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams have each received direct entries into the draw.

Reigning champion Osaka missed Wimbledon having withdrawn from the French Open after the first round to protect her well-being amid a fallout following her decision to not attend post-match media conferences.

Williams is still awaiting a record-tying 24th grand slam title, the 39-year-old forced to retire from her first-round match at Wimbledon because of an injury to her right leg.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams have probably played their last Wimbledon matches, according to American great Pam Shriver.

Both came to the All England Club this year with hopes of landing another grand slam title, which for Federer would have been a ninth at Wimbledon and Serena an eighth on the famous grass courts.

However, they were met with disappointment, Williams "heartbroken" at having to retire from her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich due to an ankle injury.

Federer was thrashed 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 by Hubert Hurkacz in the men's quarter-finals and gave no assurances after the match that he would be back in 2022, or that he would play the Tokyo Olympics.

Both turn 40 later this year, Federer on August 8 and Williams on September 26, and their time at the top of tennis may now be over.

Shriver, a five-time doubles champion at Wimbledon who won 22 grand slams in all, was asked on The Tennis Podcast whether she expected Federer to play Wimbledon again.

"I thought so, before the tournament. I didn't think he would end Wimbledon without his family here," Shriver said.

"But after seeing him in the quarters and listening to his press conference, I think it's less than 50-50. I think we may have seen the last of him."

Due to restricted bubbles put in place because of COVID-19 issues, Federer has been unable to have wife Mirka and their four children with him in London.

Federer has won 20 grand slam singles titles, a record for the men's game that he shares with Rafael Nadal and which Novak Djokovic had the chance to match at this year's Wimbledon.

 Williams has 23 majors, one short of Margaret Court's women's record, but has been stuck on that total since 2017 and Shriver would be surprised to see her in the 2022 Wimbledon draw.

"I think it's even less likely that she'll be back," Shriver said. "It's really hard to stay fit for another year.

"She can't keep coming back from more and more injuries. I think it's definitely a turning point, pivot time, is the summer of 2021."

Serena Williams was left "heartbroken" after being forced to retire hurt in her first-round match at Wimbledon as the American great's quest for a record-equalling grand slam title continues.

Williams – seeking a historic 24th slam crown – was in tears after succumbing to an ankle injury during the early stages of Tuesday's clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich at SW19.

Stuck on 23 slams since 2017, Williams hurt her ankle in the fifth game and the 39-year-old eventually called a halt to proceedings with the match level at 3-3 on Centre Court.

"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg," seven-time Wimbledon champion Williams wrote via Instagram following a possible SW19 farewell.

"My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on centre court so meaningful.

"Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on - and off - the court meant the world to me."

Williams had arrived in London amid high expectations in pursuit of matching Margaret Court's record of 24 slams.

Veteran Williams, who lost in the French Open fourth round, has won seven Wimbledon titles (level with Steffi Graf) – only Martina Navratilova has more in the Open Era (nine).

Williams has been a Wimbledon runner-up in 2018 and 2019. Chris Evert is the only player in the Open Era to have lost three consecutive Wimbledon finals (between 1978 and 1980).

She was looking to become only the second woman to win 100 Wimbledon singles matches (currently 98), alongside Navratilova (120), while Williams had been hoping to become the first woman to reach 100-plus wins in two different majors (106 wins at the US Open).

Serena Williams is out of Wimbledon in the first round after injury forced her to retire in the early stages of her match with Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The American, who was seeking a historic 24th grand slam title at the return of an event she has won seven times, was tearful as she had to withdraw from the match.

Williams had broken Sasnovich and led 3-1, appearing to be in full control of Tuesday's contest on Centre Court.

But she suffered an ankle injury in the fifth game after seeming to slip while playing a forehand.

With her movement clearly limited, Sasnovich broke back and Williams left the court for treatment as she took a medical timeout.

She re-emerged to huge applause and bravely tried to continue but was visibly in severe discomfort.

The 39-year-old soon had to call a halt to proceedings with the match level at 3-3, having let out a scream of pain as she tried in vain to reach the ball.

Serena Williams has announced she will not take part in the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have already opted out of featuring at the Games next month, with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic yet to commit.

Williams, who made her Olympics debut in 2000 and has four gold medals, is now atop the list of big-name absentees, having previously expressed reservations because she would not be able to take her three-year-old daughter Olympia along with her.

"I'm actually not on the Olympic list – not that I'm aware of. If so, then I shouldn’t be on it," she said at a pre-Wimbledon news conference.

"There's a lot of reasons that I made my Olympic decision. I don’t feel like going into them today. Maybe another day. Sorry."

Williams will begin her pursuit of an eighth Wimbledon and 24th grand slam singles title against Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Tuesday.

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