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Serena Williams pulls out of vaccine-mandated Australian Open

Tennis great Serena Williams on Wednesday announced she will not be participating in this year's Australian Open on the 'advice from her medical team.'

In a statement following her noticeable absence from the early list of players at this year's tournament, Williams said:  'Following the advice of my medical team, I have decided to withdraw from this year's Australian Open.

'While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete.'

'Melbourne is one of my favorite cities to visit, and I look forward to playing in the AO every year.

'I will miss seeing the fans, but am excited to return and compete at my highest level.' 

The announcement comes just one month after Craig Tiley, CEO of the Australian Open, said Williams would likely play in the tournament. 

Serena Williams, 40, announced on Wednesday that she will not participate in this year's Australia Open on the advice of her medical staff

She issued the statement on Twitter Wednesday, after not appearing in the list of players

Williams, 40, has not played on the WTA Tour since June 28, when she retired late in the first set of her opening round match at Wimbledon due to an injured right hamstring.

The injury has been slow to heal, the New York Times reports, and kept Williams from competing in this year's United States Open. Her rank has since dropped to 41, despite holding more Grand Slam titles than any other player.

It is unclear whether Williams decided not to participate in this year's tournament due to the injury, or if it could be due to the Australian Open's vaccination requirement.

DailyMail.com has reached out to Williams' agent, the World Tennis Association and the Australian Open for more information.

Williams has not competed since she injured her right hamstring in June, and she is now ranked 41 in the world, despite holding more Grand Slam titles than any other player

Australian Open officials announced last month that all players would have to be vaccinated to participate in this year's tournament.

'It is the one direction that you can take that you can ensure everyone's safety and all the playing groups understands it,' Tiley said in a television interview at the time.

'Our patrons will need to be vaccinated,' he said. 'All the staff working the Australian Open will need to be vaccinated, but when we're in a state where there's more than 90 percent of the population fully vaccinated - they've done a magnificent job with that - it's the right thing to do.'

In response, Steve Simon, chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association said that over 70 percent of the top 300 singles players and the top 100 doubles players had been vaccinated, the Times reported.

It remains unclear whether Williams is among that 70 percent of vaccinated players, but her husband, Alexis Ohanian, has previously tweeted in favor of the vaccinations.

In June, he wrote: 'Please get vaccinated. The data on the #DeltaVariant is not trending in the right direction.'

And in 2018, before the coronavirus pandemic, he posted that he and their daughter, Olympia, received their flu vaccines, writing: 'I know it wasn't fun, but vaccines are so important.

'There should be a national holiday for Jonas Salk right around the start of flu season just to remind everyone what a hero that man was for not only curing polio, but also GIVING AWAY... the vaccine (instead of patenting it),' he continued on Instagram.

'In the 1940s and early 50s, polio was considered one of the most terrifying public health problems in America. This guy shows up and says, "Hey, I can save all future generations of children from suffering from this crippling virus - and I don't want to make any money from it." 

'That's a boss move.' 

Her husband, Alex Ohanian, has previously tweeted in favor of vaccinations

The event's vaccine requirement, though, did stir some controversy, as Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 men's singles player, had expressed concerns about the vaccine.  

He had said he would wait to determine whether to get one based on the Australia Open's rules, but his father, Srdjan Djokovic, had claimed in an interview with TV Prava in Serbia that the vaccination mandate is 'blackmail,' and said his son 'probably won't' comply.

'I wouldn't do that,' Srdjan said. 'And he's my son, so you decide for yourself.'

But Djokovic is now on the list to play at the event, which is set to begin on January 17 in Melbourne, Victoria - a state with some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the world, with six separate stay at home orders over 18 months.

Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 men's singles player, will play at the Australian Open after previously expressing concerns about COVID vaccines

The tournament is set to begin on January 17 in Melbourne (pictured), which has had some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions, and is requiring all players to be vaccinated

Vaccine mandates have also hindered other athlete's careers over the past year.

Basketball star Kyrie Irving has not been able to play for the Brooklyn Nets this season after he refused to get the vaccine, despite a state mandate requiring all athletes to be vaccinated against COVID to play.

'Kyrie made it clear that he has a choice in the matter, and it's ultimately going to be up to him what he decides,' General Manager Sean Marks said at the time.

'We respect the fact that he has a choice, he can make his own, and right now what's best for the organization is the path that we're taking.'

Lakers star LeBron James was also almost kicked off the team this year for refusing to get the vaccine, but decided before the season began to get vaccinated.  

'I think everyone has they own choice - to do what is right for themselves and their family and things of that nature,' he said, according to CBS News.

'I know that I was very skeptical about it all but after doing my own research, I felt like it was best suited for not only me, but for my family and friends.'

As of Tuesday, about 71 percent of eligible Americans had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 60 percent are fully vaccinated.