Serena Williams addresses retirement talk after Aus Open breakdown

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Serena Williams, pictured here breaking down in tears at the Australian Open.
Serena Williams broke down in tears after her Australian Open exit. Image: AAP

Serena Williams has addressed speculation about retirement ahead of her return to the WTA Tour at the Italian Open.

The 39-year-old hasn't played since her semi-final loss to eventual champion Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open in February.

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Williams sparked speculation that she'd played her last match at the Australian Open when she broke down in tears and left her post-match press conference early.

Rumours about her future followed her Melbourne defeat and her subsequent withdrawal from the Miami Open because of oral surgery.

But on Monday she insisted she did not pay attention to online whispers.

"I really try not to get involved in too much of what people say about me, because I feel like it can make you nuts," she said.

"One thing I'm really good at is just to not really even engage so much but I do feel like people are wondering if I'm playing.

"And I have to say I always am, you just don't see it. I don't show what I do. I don't always show my cards."

Williams has been stuck on 23 majors - one behind Margaret Court's all-time - since winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant.

Since then she has given birth, returned to the tour, and finished runner-up at four grand slams.

Before 2017 she lost just six out of 28 finals.

Williams says she is "ready" to get started again in Rome as preparation for the French Open which starts in Paris on May 30.

"It's good to start fresh but it's also hard to start fresh," she told a press conference on Monday.

"I feel like I'm good. I'm in Rome. I'm going to have some good matches here hopefully and then I will be at another grand slam which always makes me excited. So I think either way I'll be ready."

Williams, a four-time champion in Rome, will face either French Open semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska or German qualifier Laura Siegemund in her opening match at the Foro Italico.

Serena Williams, pictured here during a training session at the Italian Open.
Serena Williams returns the ball during a training session at the Italian Open. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Serena raises doubts about Tokyo Olympics

However the 39-year-old raised doubts over her participation at the Tokyo Olympics.

Williams remains uncommitted about whether she will join up with Team USA in Japan, especially if it means time away from her three-year-old daughter Olympia.

"I haven't spent 24 hours without her (Olympia) so that kind of answers the question itself," said the American, who has won four Olympic gold medals, a record she shares with her sister Venus.

"I haven't really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it's this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.

"Then there are the grand slams. It's just a lot. 

"So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves."

with agencies

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