Serena Williams withdraws from Australian Open
NEZAR BALOUT / AFP / Getty

Serena Williams will not defend her Australian Open title, after all.

After returning to the court to play an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi last week following a nearly year-long maternity leave, Williams - who gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September - determined she wasn't at the physical level she needed to be to win a Grand Slam title.

"After competing in Abu Dhabi I realized that although I am super close, I'm not where I personally want to be," Williams said in a statement.

"My coach and team always said, 'Only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way.' I can compete - but I don't want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time. With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I've decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.

"The memory of last year's Open is one that I will carry with me, and Olympia and I look forward to coming back again. I appreciate the support and understanding of my fans and everyone at the Australian Open."

Williams was pregnant with Alexis Olympia when she won her Open-era-record 23rd major - and her seventh Aussie Open title - over sister Venus in Melbourne last year.

In Abu Dhabi, Serena split two sets with reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, before losing the decisive super-tiebreak 10-5.

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Serena Williams withdraws from Australian Open
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