As Tennis Australia devises how it will host this year’s Australian Open, legends of the game, Serena Williams and Roger Federer have both committed to compete in Melbourne this coming January.
The news was announced last week after Tennis Australia CEO, Craig Tiley confirmed to Channel Nine’s Wide World Of Sports that “all the top players” will be in attendance at the event.
But 2020 hasn’t been so kind to either Williams or Federer, with the pair both missing out on multiple tournaments this year due to injuries.
Serena Williams was hoping to equal Margaret Court’s record 24 major haul at this September’s French Open but was forced to withdraw from the event after the first round.
Since coming back from an extended break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams picked up an achilles injury in her left leg during her semi-final loss to Victoria Azarenka at the U.S. Open.
And it was evident that the 2017 Australian Open champion hadn’t fully recovered from the injury, as she seemed to favour her right foot during the later stages of her first-round win against fellow American Kristie Ahn at Roland Garros.
“Achilles is an injury you don’t want to play with – I think it was one of the worst, I don’t want to get to that point, I want it to get better,” Williams said in a subsequent press conference.
Doubt was initially cast as to whether the current world No.10 would make it back in time to play in Australia in January, with Williams stating, “I’m not sure I will play another tournament this year. It is not an acute injury, it is a nagging injury. I ran into bad timing and bad luck really.“
But we’re certain Serena Williams will be back fit again in good time for the major down under, with Tiley confirming, “Serena Williams will be here trying to get Margaret Court’s record so we’re excited about the players that will be here and what we’ll put up.“
Although, with an in-form crop of young competitors ahead of her in the WTA rankings, Williams will have her work cut out if she is to break Court’s record in Melbourne.
Defending champion Sofia Kenin will no doubt be looking to bounce back from her finals loss at Roland Garros, where she was beaten by 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, who didn’t drop a single set throughout the French Open.
Meanwhile, world No.1 Ashleigh Barty will also be vying for her first major on home soil after the Australian was knocked out by Kenin in the semi-finals of the 2020 edition of the tournament.
Plus, this year’s U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka will also be a hot favourite to challenge Serena Williams, as Osaka looks to grab her second major down under.
“I love playing tennis. I love competing and I love being out here. It’s my job – and I’m pretty good at it still. So, until I feel like I’m not good at it, I’ll be OK. And I’m so close to some things. Like, I’m almost there. That’s what keeps me going,” said Williams, who will no doubt relish the competition on offer and will keep knocking on the door until she breaks Margaret Court’s 24 major record.
Speaking of record holders, Roger Federer has also confirmed he will be attending next year’s Australian Open for the 20th time in his career.
Federer was knocked out in the semi-finals of this year’s event by Novak Djokovic, but after suffering from a recurring knee injury and undergoing 2 surgeries to rectify the problem, Federer has spent the remainder of the year on the sidelines.
Having not picked up a racquet since January, Federer told German-language magazine Schweizer Illustrierte that he is tracking well for a return to tennis in Melbourne next year, and that he had been “working on my stamina and strength absolutely without pain for a while.”
And Federer has calmed fan fears confirming his place at the Australian Open, with reports emerging earlier this year that he was considering retirement after suffering his injury, “at the moment, it looks like I can make my comeback at the Australian Open in January.”
Despite not having won a major title in two years, the 2018 Australian Open champion has proved he can still go the distance after battling deep into multiple tournaments last year, even reaching the finals at Wimbledon in 2019 while also picking up four wins on the ATP tour the same year.
And even with Federer and Williams both turning 40 next year, there’s no doubt the pair will still be making waves at the tournament in their hunt for more more titles and more records.
Age is just a number, class is permanent.
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