The mother of one said she needed more time to be ready to defend her title after regaining full fitness. This came after she gave birth to her first child in September.
The 36-year-old was eight weeks pregnant last year when she triumphed for a seventh time at Melbourne Park to claim an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam title.
“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,” Williams said in a statement.
Williams noted that she was disappointed to withdraw but looked forward to returning in the future.
“After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that although I am super close, I‘m not where I personally want to be,” Williams added.
“With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I’ve decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.”
Tournament director Craig Tiley called Williams’ efforts to try and be ready for a title defence at the Australian Open “Herculean” and said she transcended the sport.
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“It was never going to be good enough for her to just compete, she wants to give herself the best chance to win.
“I’ve been in constant contact with Serena and her team and know this is why she has pushed it and pushed it until the eleventh hour to make her final decision,” Tiley said.
Williams is the latest tennis star to withdraw from the year’s opening Grand Slam, which will be played from Jan. 15 to Jan. 28.