Serena Williams has entered the 2018 Australian Open and is set to make her return to competitive action at the first Grand Slam of next year, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.
The 36-year-old last appeared at the 2017 Australian Open, which she won while pregnant to move on to 23 career Grand Slam singles titles.
Williams has spent almost a year out, during which she gave birth to a daughter in September and married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last month, and Tiley has now confirmed the American star is "very likely" to resume her career at the Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 15, per Lauren Wood of the Herald Sun:
"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. 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."
Should Williams win the 2018 tournament in Melbourne she would equal Australian Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
Her triumph in Australia last year saw her eclipse Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 titles.
In her absence Serena has dropped to No. 22 in the WTA Rankings but she will likely be considered the favourite to triumph should she indeed return at the 2018 Australian Open.
It would be remarkable, though, were her form not to suffer a little from a lack of match sharpness and there will be a competitive field in Melbourne eager to prevent her from successfully defending the title.
Current world No. 1 Simona Halep is still searching for her maiden Grand Slam win while Caroline Wozniacki ended the 2017 season in fine fashion by beating Venus Williams to claim the WTA Finals title back in October.