Bad news, friends and fans of women's tennis, according to the Twitter exchange I just had with @AustralianOpen, the Australian major's official Twitter account, it appears that the health concerns that are keeping Serena Williams out of Asia this fall may, in fact, keep her from contending for a sixth Australian Open crown this coming January.
Neither Serena's team, nor the tournament have issued an official statement to this point, but considering the source, I'll take this at face value for the moment. Given the warnings of developing blood clots and specifically, a deadly condition known as DVT (deep vein thrombosis), regularly given to healthy passengers on long-haul flights, it's understandable that the 30 year old American would opt out. The longest flight Serena has had to take thus far in her comeback has been to London, approximately a seven hour flight. Were she to fly from the US West Coast, say Los Angeles' LAX to Melbourne, the flight would be nearly twice as long, 15 hours, 40 minutes. Add another five to six hours of flight time were she flying from her home base near Miami.
Serena Williams holds the Open era record for most Australian Open titles with 5 titles. In winning those titles, she's defeated five one-time World No. 1s in the finals, her sister Venus, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina and most recently Justine Henin. Williams was a two-time defending champion coming into 2011 but was forced to withdraw with an off-court foot injury that kept her off court for nearly a year. Williams, a 13-time singles Grand Slam champion, most recently reached the US Open final, losing to Samantha Stosur, in New York last month.