Australian Open confirm Serena Williams will defend title next month

Samuel Lovett
Serena Williams is working towards a return for the 2018 season: Getty

Serena Williams, the current Australian Open champion, is set to defend her title in Melbourne next January, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

The former world No 1 gave birth to her first child in September and has not played since winning in Melbourne at the start of the year, when she 20 weeks pregnant.

Williams is now in the process of working towards a return for the 2018 season, with intentions to compete at Melbourne Park next month.

Tiley revealed this week that the 23-time grand slam champion has entered the tournament with the target of eventually surpassing Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam singles titles.

He told the Herald Sun: "She's got her visa, she's entered, she's practising and she's probably just got to find a bit more space for a bigger entourage.

"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."

Williams earlier this year told Vogue magazine that she has outlined “the most outrageous plan” for her return.

"It's the most outrageous plan," the American said. "I just want to put that out there. That's, like, three months after I give birth. I'm not walking anything back, but I'm just saying it's pretty intense.

"If I lose and I lose again, it's like, 'she's done'. Especially since I'm not 20 years old. I'll tell you this much: I won't win less. Either I win, or I don't play."

Williams would not be the first female player to make a successful return to tennis after pregnancy.

Former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka re-joined the WTA tour two months ago after the birth of her first child last December.

Kim Clijsters, the 2005 US Open champion, went on to win one more title at Flushing Meadows as an unseeded wild card following a 28-month layoff during which time she gave birth to her first daughter.

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