Seven-time Australian Open women’s champ Serena Williams has opted out of next month’s grand slam tournament.
The world No.41 will not contest the women’s draw following advice from her medical team.
“While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete,” Williams said.
“Melbourne is one of my favourite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year.
“I will miss seeing the fans, but am excited to return and compete at my highest level.”
The 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, 21, has also withdrawn.
The Canadian star is taking a break from the tour, before targeting a comeback later in 2022.
Tennis Australia confirmed Williams’ absence, with the official list of women’s players released on Wednesday afternoon.
Williams, 40, has not played a major tournament since retiring in the first round at Wimbledon.
In the men’s draw, 16th-ranked Roger Federer will be a notable absentee as he continues his rehabilitation following knee surgery.
Fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka, who won the 2014 Australian Open, will also miss the event as he recovers from surgery.
The news came as the Victorian government shot down reports that world No.1 Novak Djokovic was in line for a medical exemption to allow him to play at the Open.
Deputy Premier James Merlino said the state government wouldn’t be handing out exemptions from COVID shots willy nilly, to allow Djokovic – who has repeatedly refused to confirm whether he is vaccinated against the virus – to play.
Government officials have been adamant for months that only fully vaccinated players, their entourages, staff and fans will be granted entry to Melbourne Park for the season’s first grand slam from January 17 to 30.
But Djokovic reportedly has grounds to apply for an exemption that could enable the world No.1 to avoid 14 days’ quarantine and defend the title he won for a record ninth time this year.
“My view on this is is really clear and really simple,” Mr Merlino said on Wednesday.
“Everyone’s looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.
“They’re the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players.
“It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition.
“My view, and I think the view of all Victorians, the expectation of all Victorians, is that everyone who attends the Open – player, spectator, staff, officials, everyone’s fully vaccinated.”
On Tuesday, Djokovic was named to lead Serbia in the ATP Cup teams’ event in Sydney from January 1, in the strongest indication yet that the 34-year-old will contest the Open.
While declining to reveal whether Djokovic was on the Open entry list, TA released a statement to “confirm that everyone entering Australia for the summer of tennis will need to meet the strict requirements set by health authorities across the country”.
“These include certified proof of vaccination, or a valid medical exemption approved by Australian medical officials.
“What has also been made clear by health officials is that international arrivals who don’t meet these requirements will need to quarantine for 14 days.”
It noted that any suggestion TA was seeking “loopholes” within this process was “simply untrue”.
“Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we,” the statement read.