In Brief

Serena Williams will be back to defend Australian Open title

Tennis star’s daughter’s initials are a nod to her mother’s Grand Slam victory in Melbourne earlier this year

Serena Williams is expected to return to Melbourne to defend her Australian Open title in January in a tournament that holds a special place in her heart. 

Williams, who gave birth to a daughter in September, will join six-time winner Novak Djokovic and former world No.1 Andy Murray on court in Australia, the tournament’s director Craig Tiley said today.

After giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Williams said that her baby’s initials – A.O. – were a nod to the Australian Open. Serena has won the Grand Slam seven times. This year she was eight weeks pregnant when she triumphed over her sister Venus in Melbourne.

When asked if Williams would play in Australia, Tiley told the Australian Associated Press: “Serena will be back. We look forward to welcoming her and again going on that journey of breaking the all-time record for the most number of grand slams.”

In the 2018 edition of the tournament, the prize money pool has increased by 10% to AU$55million (£32.4m). Both the men’s and women’s singles winners will pocket a cheque for AU$4m (£2.35m).

“It’s the first time ever that both the women and the men’s winner will receive $4m each – that has not been done by any other Grand Slam or any other event,” says Tiley.

In the men’s draw Murray and Djokovic are also preparing for the first Grand Slam of 2018. Both players have been hit by injuries this year and will have watched on as Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal shared four slam victories between them.

Tiley revealed he had spoken to Murray who is training hard to be in Melbourne.

“All the top players will be back in Melbourne,” he said. “I can tell you that in talking to Andy, he has been training and he is preparing for having a great year in 2018.”

Tiley said that watching Federer and Nadal share four Grand Slam titles this year would have been painful for the Scot. “He would not have liked that,” he said.

“As competitive as Andy is, we know he’s back and he’ll want to improve his current ranking of number three in the world and getting back to number one.”

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