As was expected, the 23-time Major champion Serena Williams will not travel to Melbourne in January, skipping the Australian Open for the sixth time. The seven-time Australian Open champion is still dealing with an injury that forced her to miss the second part of 2021, needing more time to recover and get back at 100% in her quest for the elusive 24th Major title. Williams will finish the season ranked outside the top-40 for the first time since 2006, playing only six tournaments this season and reaching no Major finals. The American veteran struggled with injuries and wrapped up the season after tearing her hamstring in the Wimbledon first round. Serena skipped the home Major in New York and decided to call it a year and make a fresh start at some point in 2022.
Williams claimed the 23rd Major crown at the Australian Open 2017 and moved one behind the all-time leader Margaret Court. The great American took a break from tennis to give berth to a child later that year and returned in the spring of 2018, keen to continue where she left. Determined to get back where she belongs, Williams reached four Major finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019, losing them all and failing to make an extra step and match Court’s record. Serena has been dealing with numerous injuries in the past couple of years, including one at the last year’s Roland Garros. Her best result at Majors in 2021 came at the Australian Open, where she played on a high level before losing to Naomi Osaka in the semi-final. Serena’s old rival Justine Henin believes it will be extremely tough for the American to claim the desired 24th Major crown, considering her age and the fact that the younger players are not afraid of her anymore.
Serena Williams will miss the Australian Open, needing more time to recover.
“The young players are starting to fear Serena Williams less. We were afraid of Serena in my era. And many girls continued to be scared of her for years. Now it’s not the case anymore, and she feels that. You can feel that her attitude on the court has changed. There is less self-belief and confidence, and I’m not sure the old desire is there anymore. That does not take anything away from her and she remains someone exceptional in all that she has accomplished; that will never change. Maybe she is at that point and phase of her life where maybe it’s potentially time to move on.
I’m starting to have to be convinced that the quest that she had set herself to go and win more Major titles will not happen. Still, it’s always hard to answer ‘100 per cent it’s not going to happen’. And because all the time, I want to say that I remember Serena Williams is from my generation, and she is still here. She gave me so much trouble that I still want to believe that Serena is capable of anything. But you have to be realistic. Maybe she is also discovering a new life today, as it can be wonderful after tennis. It will depend on her physical condition, obviously, and on her will to do what it takes. She is getting older and there are young players who are very physical. I think it’s going to get harder and harder, if not impossible,” Justin Henin said.