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Serena withdraws from Brisbane International with injured ankle

The 13-time Grand Slam winner faces a race against the clock if she is to be fit in time for the Australian Open later this month.

Image: Tertius Pickard/AP/Press Association Images

John Pye, Associated Press

SERENA WILLIAMS’ Australian Open preparations took a major hit this morning when an ankle injury forced her to withdraw from the Brisbane International.

Williams, playing only her second singles match since September, was serving for the match with a 6-2 5-3 lead against Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski when she twisted the ankle and crashed heavily to the court.

The 13-time Grand Slam winner lay near the baseline for several minutes while getting medical attention. She was helped to a courtside chair and had the ankle re-taped before resuming the second-round match and losing the next point to surrender a service break to Jovanovski.

Williams limped through the next game, wincing in pain after at least two points, before securing a 6-2 6-4 win to advance to the Brisbane quarterfinals in her first trip Down Under since winning the 2010 Australian title.

But despite initial optimism about her prognosis, the 30-year-old confirmed that she was withdrawing from tomorrow’s match against Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

“I’m anticipating it’ll be OK,” she said. “My initial thoughts, I’m always thinking I can play on, but at the same time I don’t want to stress it out right now.”

The Australian Open starts 16 January in Melbourne. Williams, a five-time winner at Melbourne Park, missed the 2011 Australian Open while she was recovering from two operations on her foot and blood clots in her lungs that kept her sidelined for about a year after Wimbledon 2010.

She won two tournaments heading into the US Open in August but, after losing the final to Australia’s Sam Stosur, Williams didn’t play another tournament last year due to injuries.

Williams said her first thought when she sprawled to the court near the baseline on Wednesday was “not again.”

“That’s what I felt,” she said. “I was like, ‘No way!’”

Williams usually wears a protective guard on her left ankle, but took it off during the second set because it was irritating another minor injury on her foot.

She said she started to feel improvement after having treatment and “as long as I was able to walk, it was a little better,” but wouldn’t risk further problems by playing with an injury.

“Health is always first for me. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t know any answers right now,” Williams said of her prospects for being fit for the Australian Open.

– Additional reporting by Niall Kelly

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