Serena 'very likely' to make comeback at Australian Open: Organizers

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Serena Williams, seen in this file photo, is very likely to be ready to make her tennis comeback at the Australian Open.

MELBOURNE — Serena Williams will be ready to make her tennis comeback at the Australian Open with her return to Melbourne for the season's opening Grand Slam "very likely", organizers said Wednesday.

Williams, 36, won this year's Australian Open while pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl in September. She has not played a competition since, raising questions over whether the 23-time Grand Slam winner would attempt to defend her title next month.

But tournament director Craig Tiley is optimistic she will return for a crack at her seventh Melbourne Park crown after marrying Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last month.

"She's got her visa, she's entered, she's practicing and she's probably just got to find a bit more space for a bigger entourage," Melbourne's Herald Sun quoted him as saying.

"There's no question that she'll be ready in our view and she wants to break a record that is Margaret Court's. It would be a pretty significant accomplishment for her to be able to do that."

Australian Court has 24 major titles, making her the most successful player in Grand Slam history. Tiley described the Australian Open, which will be held from Jan. 15-28, as a "family-friendly event".

"We've had this before. Roger Federer travels with his four kids and we are a family-friendly event," he said, referring to Williams and her baby.

The winner of the 2018 tournament will walk away with A$4.0 million ($3.0 million), up from A$3.7 million last year. The total tournament purse has risen 10 percent to A$55 million.

Konta appoints Joyce

as new coach

British world No. 9 Johanna Konta has named American Michael Joyce as her new coach for the 2018 season following her split from Belgian Wim Fisette in October.

The 26-year-old enjoyed a solid start to 2017, winning the Sydney International and Miami Open titles, and hit a career-high number four world ranking before injury and poor form saw her miss out on a WTA Finals berth.

The 44-year-old Joyce has previously worked with former number ones Maria Sharapova, whom he guided to two grand slam titles, and Victoria Azarenka, whose team he joined in early 2017 before leaving the Belarusian's coaching squad last week.

"I'm delighted to confirm that Michael Joyce will be joining my team for 2018," Konta said in a statement. "Michael is a fantastic coach with a great pedigree and I'm really excited to work with him. 2017 has been amazing but I feel like there is so much more to come."

Konta will begin her 2018 season at the Brisbane International, which is scheduled to start on Dec. 31.

Elsewhere, Czech Barbora Strycova, who won the Linz Open in October, has named compatriot David Kotyza as her new coach after splitting with Tomas Krupa earlier this year.

Strycova, 31, will play her first competition under Kotyza at the season-opening ASB Classic in Auckland. — Agencies


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