“I really hope there’s no retirement. I can’t imagine being at home without playing tennis.”

Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open on January 5, 2018 and announced she would not defend the title she won while pregnant.The American had kept secret the fact she was expecting her first child as she swept to a 23rd grand slam title in 2017, defeating sister Venus 6-4 6-4 in the final.

Williams gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September of the same year and ultimately decided to delay her return to the big stageWilliams had played an exhibition match on December 30 in Abu Dhabi against Jelena Ostapenko, testing out her fitness in a 6-2 3-6 10-5 defeat, and that prompted her decision to sit out the new year’s first grand slam

She said: “After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that, although I am super close, I’m not where I personally want to be.“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.”

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: “The true champion Serena is has been demonstrated in the Herculean efforts she has made over the past few months in her desire to play the Australian Open.