As part of the launching of the 2018 Australian Open Tuesday, tournament director Craig Tiley announced that the top 100 men and women will be in Melbourne for next year’s event.
It sounds good. But of course there’s no way he can guarantee that.
Certainly all of the top male players Tiley mentioned – Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori – have announced that they expect to be back and raring to go in 2018. All of them have cutt short their 2017 seasons due to injury.
But there’s no way to know.
Nevertheless, so many of the headlines Tuesday “confirmed” Serena Williams’ return after maternity leave at the first Grand Slam of the 2018 season.
(That’s the Independent, which may think Williams will give birth only in mid-October, given the Australian Open starts Jan. 15)
That’s the Melbourne Age, which quotes Tiley thusly:
“Her baby’s initials are AO (Alexis Ohanian) 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,” Tiley said.
Well, Williams didn’t actually do that. The Australian Open tournament Twitter did that.
Shall we get Alexis' name engraved on the trophy then? Only fair. https://t.co/Xs7smvyS0T
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) September 28, 2017
“If anyone can do it, she can and I’m certainly not counting her out of a return come January,” Tiley added.
That sounds more reasonable.
Sort of, kind of, hope so, maybe!
Tiley never specifically confirmed Williams would play. But he didn’t unsay it, either.
“I’ve been in contact with all the top players and am pleased to announce we’ll have the full top 100 men and women returning to the Australian Open in January,” Tiley said. “It’s exciting to think Serena could return to defend her title after motherhood, and it’s also exciting to speculate on who can break through the pack to win.”
“Serena, the competitor that she is, she wants to win more than the 23 Grand Slam titles that she has. She was eight weeks pregnant when she played the Australian Open and very few people knew that,” he also said. “We have a special relationship with Serena, the Williams family, both her and Venus. She wants to come back in 2018 and defend her title. Obviously, at training now, there is several months to go and it will be up to her as far as where she is with her fitness.”
Still, that didn’t stop the headlines. They’re everywhere.
The tournament’s Twitter stated it emphatically.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) October 9, 2017
Here’s Channel 9 in Australia:
And the Daily Mail:
And The Guardian:
Baby changes everything
Before she gave birth, Serena Williams said – and coach Patrick Mouratoglou confirmed – that her intention was to return in Australia, just 4 1/2 months after giving birth.
Since then, as she enjoys the first months of Alexis Olympia Ohanian’s life, Williams hasn’t said anything one way or the other. Certainly Williams hasn’t posted anything on social media indicating she has returned to training.
But she did say that she spent six days in the hospital after the birth, which was probably unexpected.
The latest word from Serena to her fans doesn’t mention the Australian Open.
Today I bought my first bag of diapers. I felt so grown picking out the bag. I may have even looked around hoping someone saw me. Haha
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) October 9, 2017
You’d think, if she had already decided, that she’d have considered the Hopman Cup. It’s a relaxed, non-tournament, low-key way to ease back into the game – much like Roger Federer used it last January to return after a six-month absence.
So we’ll just have to wait until Williams is spotted somewhere Down Under in January to be certain.
Or, at least, wait for the lady herself to weigh in. She may also change her mind a few times between now and then – mother’s prerogative, you know.