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Serena Williams set to make her return at the Australian Open, says tournament organiser

The 23-time Grand Slam winner gave birth to her first child last month.

Image: Adam Davy

AUSTRALIAN OPEN ORGANISERS said they were hopeful of a stunning return by Serena Williams in January as they raised the winners’ prize money to a bumper Aus$4 million (US$3.1 million) on Tuesday.

Williams won this year’s Australian Open while pregnant, and she has spoken of her “outrageous” plans to play in Melbourne in 2018 — just four-and-a-half months after giving birth to her baby girl.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said all 100 top men and women had confirmed they intended to play in Melbourne — which includes Williams, who is currently ranked 24th.

He added that the 36-year-old’s mind was firmly fixed on the tournament, which coincidentally has the same initials as her daughter, Alexis Olympia.

“Her baby’s initials are AO and she’s suggested she should also have her name on the 2017 trophy, so the AO is well and truly top of mind for her at the moment,” he said at the event’s official launch in Melbourne.

If anyone can do it, she can and I’m certainly not counting her out of a return come January.”

Tiley also told the Melbourne Age: “She wants to come back in 2018 and defend her title. Obviously, at training now, there is several months to go. It will be up to her as far as where she is with her fitness.”

Some former stars have wondered whether the 23-time Grand Slam winner would be able to bounce back so soon after giving birth, and if she does, whether she will be able to regain top form.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King previously said that motherhood could change Williams’ position on making a return to the court.

“Serena is with her baby and she says she is going to be back but you never count on it because, when they hold their baby, they might decide they don’t want to do that, because Serena has already won so much,” King told Omnisport, courtesy of WTA-WSJ.

Injured former world number ones Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, along with Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka, are set to be back in action in time for the season’s opening Grand Slam in January.

Additional reporting by Sinéad Farrell

- © AFP, 2017

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