Margaret Court twist in Serena Williams' Australian Open withdrawal

Serena Williams and Margaret Court, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Serena Williams has now been stuck one major short of Margaret Court's all-time record for five years. Image: Getty

Serena Williams' grand slam drought will officially reach five years in January after the 23-time major champion announced her withdrawal from the Australian Open.

The 40-year-old stunned the tennis world this week when she announced that she won't be playing in Melbourne in January, missing another chance to equal Margaret Court's all-time grand slam record.

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When Williams won her 23rd major at the Australian Open in 2017, she appeared destined to equal and pass Court's record of 24 in little time.

But things haven't worked out that way and when the Australian Open is run and won in 2022, it will officially be five years since Williams last won a major.

It's not as if the American champion hasn't gone close.

Williams has finished runner-up at four grand slams since winning the 2017 Australian Open, losing in the final at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019.

She made the semi-finals at the 2021 Australian Open before losing to Naomi Osaka, suffered a shock loss to Elena Rybakina in the fourth round at the French Open, and was forced to retire hurt in the first round at Wimbledon after slipping on the grass and injuring her hamstring.

That same injury forced her to miss the US Open and is keeping her out of the 2022 Australian Open.

The Australian Open released a statement from Williams on Wednesday saying she made the decision to withdraw “following advice from her medical team."

Serena Williams, pictured here after winning the Australian Open in 2017.
Serena Williams last won a grand slam at the Australian Open in 2017. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

“While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete,” Williams told the Australian Open website.

“Melbourne is one of my favourite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year.

"I will miss seeing the fans, but am excited to return and compete at my highest level.”

Williams' ranking has now slipped to No.41 after a long layoff.

"It's kind of sad that's it is now more unusual when Serena Williams plays a major than when she withdraws from one," tweeted Andrew Das of the New York Times on Wednesday.

"Still one short of Margaret Court's record, which must drive her nuts."

Does Serena care about Margaret Court's record?

While many have speculated in recent years that Williams is desperate to equal and break Court's record, coach Patrick Mouratoglou doesn't believe so.

"Clearly she came back to tennis (after her daughter's birth) to win some other grand slams, so that's for sure the goal, but now she's not as obsessed with the 24 than most of the people in the tennis world," he said in February.

"But definitely she wants to win grand slams.

"That's the only reason why she came back to tennis."

The Frenchman argued that Williams and Court's records are hard to compare because the Australian won 11 of her majors in the amateur era.

"There is tennis before the Open era and tennis after the Open era. We all know it's two different sports," Mouratoglou said.

"It's an amateur sport and a professional sport. Doesn't make really sense to compare.

"But it's probably fun to talk about beating records, which is something that I understand."

in 2020, Aussie legend John Fitzgerald said Williams would be "suffering" knowing how close she is to the record.

“She's one of the greatest players we've ever seen and she has the record in the modern era to certainly make claims of being the greatest player ever,” he said.

“(But) will she be able to catch Margaret Court's record in numbers?

“That's a question for her and she'll be suffering in some ways, I think along with Roger Federer, in terms of thinking about her final record.”

with agencies

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