Why is Serena Williams NOT playing the Australian Open 2018?

Williams had started the tournament as the No 2 seed but No 1 Angelique Kerber was knocked out by CoCo Vandeweghe in the fourth round.

The defeat meant that Williams instead met her sister Venus, who dispatched Vandeweghe in the last four, in a final.

Serena triumphed in straight sets to become the oldest ever woman in the open era to win a Grand Slam title.

But she will not be defending her crown this time around, despite demonstrating her fitness in an exhibition defeat to Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi last month.

Why is Serena Williams NOT playing the Australian Open 2018?

SERENA WILLIAMS revealed shortly after her 2017 Australian Open triumph that she had won the tournament while nine weeks pregnant and was expecting her first child.

 JAMES GRAY

Serena WilliamsGETTY

Serena Williams will not be playing at the Australian Open 2018

Williams had started the tournament as the No 2 seed but No 1 Angelique Kerber was knocked out by CoCo Vandeweghe in the fourth round.

The defeat meant that Williams instead met her sister Venus, who dispatched Vandeweghe in the last four, in a final.

Serena triumphed in straight sets to become the oldest ever woman in the open era to win a Grand Slam title.

But she will not be defending her crown this time around, despite demonstrating her fitness in an exhibition defeat to Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi last month.

“My coach and team always said ‘only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way’,” Williams said last week.

“I can compete – but I don’t want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time.

“The memory of last year’s Open is one that I will carry with me, and [daughter] Olympia and I look forward to coming back again.”

But the 36-year-old subsequently withdrew from the Australian Open 10 days before the January 15 start, citing an inability to “go all the way” in the tournament.

Watch Australian Open 2018 Live Online tips: Betting advice as Roger Federer goes for Grand Slam No 20

The early-season nature of the tournament historically means players arrive in Melbourne under-prepared.

Australian Open 2018 Live Online

The list of post-2000 finalists includes unusual names such as Thomas Johansson, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Gonzalez and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

But the last seven years have seen Novak Djokovic dominate proceedings, with the Serb winning five titles since 2011 while Britain’s Andy Murray has reached five finals since 2010.

So who could go all the way this year? Express Sport has spent some time hunting the markets for four value bets.

Australian Open 2018 tips

Roger Federer to win (2/1) without dropping a set (18/1)

Hardly Nostradamus am I? Picking the overwhelming favourite and defending champion to win? But seriously, he’s worth it.

Federer has looked supremely smooth and crucially, injury-free, in the run-up while the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have failed to play a single competitive match.

If you want to make a bit more than 2/1 out of Federer, split your cash between the outright win and the immaculate one – the Swiss’ 2007 victory in Melbourne came without dropping a set as well, although his three late five-setters 12 months ago inform the longer price.

Jack Sock each way (80/1)

Big price, big punt, but I like it. Sock is in the form of his life, having reached world No 8 in November after winning his maiden Masters 1000 title in Paris.

He subsequently made a surprise appearance at the ATP World Tour Finals, beating Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev on his way to the semi-finals.

The price is a reflection of the fact he has never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam but there have been plenty of firsts for the 25-year-old. He’s got a big serve and a bigger forehand – find somewhere offering each way to four places and he looks good value for a semi-final berth. Stranger things have happened.

Milos Raonic each way (50/1)

I’ve tried to avoid throwing Express Sport’s hard-earned cash into an injury cloud but I couldn’t resist a punt on Raonic.

He has made at least the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the last three years in a row and has a better winning percentage in Australia than at any other Grand Slam.

The Canadian might need some of the other injury doubts to manifest for him to make a deep run but if his own wrist is right, he can be a nightmare on the faster courts.

He was upset by Alex De Minaur in Brisbane but that appears to be a fate more and more senior professionals are beginning to fear.

Australian Open 2018: When is the draw and what changes have been introduced for opening grand slam?

What is it?

It’s the draw for the opening grand slam of the season, the Australian Open 2018.

When is it?

Well, traditionally the draw is made on the Friday before the tournament begins but this year they have brought it forward by 24 hours which means it will take place on Thursday, January 11.

What time will it be in the UK?

It will be at the convenient time of 8am.

Why have they brought it forward by a day?

This year they are televising the draw and is open to fans to attend. It will take place on the Margaret Court Arena with Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley keen to push the tournament in new ways.

“We’re going to give it a go,” he said.