Serena Williams To Join Murray And Djokovic In Australian Open Return, Says Director
The head of the Australian Open believes Serena Williams will return to defend her title at the tournament in January, three months after giving birth to her first child.
Craig Tiley told reporters on Tuesday that the former world No.1 has already resumed training. Williams hasn’t played a competitive tournament since this year’s Australian Open where she won her 23rd grand slam title whilst pregnant. Shortly before giving birth to her daughter Alexis, the 36-year-old told fashion magazine Vogue that she hopes to stage an ‘outrageous’ return to the tournament.
“Serena will be back,” Tiley said.
“She wants to come back in 2018 and defend her title and she’s in training now.
“There’s several months to go and obviously it will be up to her as to where she is with her fitness.”
Williams will be bidding to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slam titles in singles competition. Only a handful of players has managed to win major titles after having children, including Court and Kim Clijsters. Speaking about her historic bid, Tiley believes that the American is hungry for more success on the tour.
“Serena, the competitor that she is, she wants to win more than the 23 Grand Slam titles that she has,” said Tiley.
“She was eight weeks pregnant when she played the Australian Open and very few people knew that.”
Men’s stars also set to return
Tiley also spoke about his hopes of seeing the return of a group of players currently missing from the men’s game. Former champion Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka have all ended their season early due to injury. It is hoped that those players will return to action at the start of 2018 with Tiley confidently confirming that Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka will participate in the first grand slam of next year.
“On the men’s side, there has been a lot of concern and conjecture around Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori,” Tiley admitted.
“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.”
There was no comment regarding Nishikori. Recently Nishikori’s coach told an Argentinian radio station that it was unlikely that he would be ready in time to compete in Melbourne. The former US Open finalist is nursing a wrist injury.
Record prize money for the winner
The men’s and women’s champion in the 2018 Australian Open will each take home $4 million for the first time in history. The amount is an $300,000 increase of this year’s payment of $3.7 million. The overall prize pool will be increased by 10% to $55 million.
“It’s the first time ever that both the women and the men’s winner will receive $4m each, that has not been done by any other grand slam or any other event,” Tiley said.
Billie Jean King has been named as the person who will present the women’s trophy to the winner on what will be the 50th anniversary of her only triumph at the Australian Open. King won a total of 12 grand slam titles during her career.
Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Melbourne Park hosting the Australian Open. It will take place between January 15-28.