MELBOURNE: Two-time defending champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open because of a foot injury.
Tournament director Craig Tiley released a statement Thursday saying Williams had pulled out of the Hopman Cup international mixed teams competition in Perth and the Australian Open in January.
It is the second consecutive Grand Slam tournament Williams will miss, and the loss of 2,000 rankings points could cost the 29-year-old star her place in the top 10.
Williams has played only one exhibition match since winning Wimbledon in July. She had surgery after cutting her foot on broken glass at a restaurant following her win at the All England Club. She returned to practice in September, but twice put off her comeback, missing the US Open, the season-ending WTA tournament, the Fed Cup and a handful of tour events.
She said she had additional surgery last month and couldn’t risk returning before the injury had properly healed.
“As I recently learned, pushing myself back into my intense training too early only caused me further injury and damage,” Williams said. “While I desperately want to be back on the court and competing in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, it is imperative for my health that I continue to work with my doctors to ensure my foot heals properly.
“This decision, though heavy on my heart, is the right one. I am praying for a healthy recovery and I promise my Aussie fans and my fans around the world that I will be back better than ever as soon as I can be.”
Williams has won the Australian Open five times and is a popular draw in Melbourne.
“Serena is a great champion and we will miss her in January,” Tiley said.
When healthy, Serena and sister Venus Williams have dominated women’s tennis during the past decade. Serena has won each of the four majors at least once, and she has 13 Grand Slam singles crowns in all.
Serena Williams finished No. 4 in the rankings in 2010 despite playing only six tournaments, including her wins at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
She missed three months early in the season with a left knee injury, and hasn’t played a tour tournament since Wimbledon. Despite that, she spent most of the year at No. 1—taking her career tally to 123 weeks atop the women’s rankings—until being replaced by Caroline Wozniacki on Oct. 11.
While recuperating, Serena Williams has spent time pursuing her wide-ranging business and fashion interests and work for her foundation, which is dedicated to educating children in Africa.