The Australian Open suffered a huge hit Thursday with the withdrawal of five-time champion Serena Williams because of an ongoing foot problem.
Williams, 29, has played only six tournaments in 2010 because of a left knee injury suffered earlier in the season, before encountering serious problems with her right foot which required surgery.
“As I recently learned, pushing myself back into my intense training too early only caused me further injury and damage,” Williams said in a statement.
“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.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has been in close contact with Williams ever since the American had her second operation on the foot in October.
“I know how disappointing it will be for Serena that she’s unable to come back and defend her title at Australian Open 2011. We all know how much she enjoys playing here, and how much she loves her Aussie fans,” Tiley said
“Serena is a great champion and we will miss her in January. We send her our very best wishes for a speedy recovery and look forward to welcoming her back to Australia soon.”
Williams, who holds 13 Grand Slam trophies, beat comeback queen Justine Henin in last January’s decider.