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Serena Williams pulls out of Australian Open

FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2017 file photo, United States' Serena Williams gestures as she holds her trophy after defeating her sister Venus in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. Williams, defending champion has withdrawn from the 2018 Australian Open, saying she is not ready to return to tournament tennis.(AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, File)
2017 File/Dita Alangkara/AP
Serena Williams gestured as she held her trophy following her victory over her sister, Venus, in the women's singles final of last year’s Australian Open. She withdrew from the 2018 Australian Open, saying she was not ready to return to tournament tennis.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Defending champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open, saying she is not ready to return to tournament tennis.

Williams was pregnant with her first child when she won last year’s tournament at Melbourne Park, her 23rd Grand Slam singles title of her career.

She gave birth to her daughter, Alexis, in September.

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She played in an exhibition tournament last week in Abu Dhabi and indicated after her loss to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko that she might not make it to Melbourne.

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‘‘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 released Friday by Australian Open organizers.

‘‘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.

‘‘With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I’ve decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.’’