Serena Williams looks set to return to defend her Australian Open title after becoming a mother in September, the tournament’s director has announced.
The 35-year-old Williams sister discovered she was expecting shortly before the 2017 Australian Open in January but went on to win the tournament without dropping a set.
Williams beat her sister Venus in the Melbourne final 6-4 6-4.
She now hopes to return to grand slam tennis in time for the Australian Open in January next year, Craig Tiley said.
Speaking after an announcement on what fans could expect from the 2018 tournament, he said: “Serena, the competitor that she is, she wants to win more than the 23 grand slam titles that she has. She was eight weeks pregnant when she played the Australian Open and very few people knew that.”
The 23-time grand slam singles champion and her fiance Alexis Ohanian named their daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, with Williams previously tweeting: “Fun fact my daughters’ initials are AO as in the Aussie open she won with me AustralianOpen”.
Tiley added: “We’re proud of the fact she’s gone around the world, she’s told that her baby’s AO – Australian Open, Alexis Ohanian. We have a special relationship with Serena, the Williams family, both her and Venus. She wants to come back in 2018 and defend her title. Obviously, at training now, there are several months to go and it will be up to her as far as where she is with her fitness.”
Tiley said: “On the men’s side, there has been a lot of concern and conjecture around Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori. I can tell you that in talking to Andy, he has been training and he is preparing for having a great year in 2018.
“How much would this year have hurt him, to watch over the entire year Roger and Rafa share four grand slam titles – he would not have like that. As competitive as Andy is, we know he’s back and he’ll want to improve his current ranking of number three in the world and getting back to number one.”
Tiley also announced the prize money for next year’s tournament will rise by 10% to 55million Australian dollars (£32.5million), with the men and women’s champions earning 4million Australian dollars (£2.3million).
A victory for Serena Williams at the Australian Open 2018 would see her match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles.