Tennis legend Venus Williams will feature at Melbourne Park for the 22nd time next year after being awarded a wild-card entry for the 2023 Australian Open.
The 42-year-old has not played a competitive match since the US Open in September and is currently ranked outside the top 1000.
Tennis Australia’s decision, therefore, represents a clear show of faith toward the seven-time Grand Slam winner.
Her participation will also mark the return of a Williams sister to the main draw after neither Venus nor Serena was present at the 2022 tournament – the first time both players missed the event in 25 years.
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“I am very excited to be returning to Melbourne to compete at the Australian Open in January,” Williams said in a statement.
“I’ve been competing in the country for over 20 years now and the Australian community has always supported me wholeheartedly.
“It will be an honour to play for the fans again and I’m looking forward to making more memories at the tournament this year.”
Williams made her debut at the Australian Open as a 16-year-old in 1998, going on to reach the final in 2003 and 2017.
She was beaten by her sister Serena in both of those deciders.
Her last appearance at the tournament was in 2021 when she reached the second round.
“Venus is not just an incredible player and fan favorite, she’s a great role model and leader in our sport in so many ways,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said.
“We are delighted to welcome her back to the AO in January.”
Despite their shared history at the season-opening tournament, Venus will not be joined by her sister at Melbourne Park next year.
Whilst 41-year-old Serena hasn’t officially retired from tennis, she has described her next step as an “evolution” into the next stage of her life.
Her last match was a third-round US Open loss to top-ranked Australian Ajla Tomljanović in September.
The 2023 edition of the Australian Open will take place from January 16-29.