Serena to begin 2020 at Auckland

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Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball during the women's singles semifinal match between Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and Serena Williams of the United States at the 2019 Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada, Aug. 10, 2019. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)

LONDON (Reuters) – Former world number one Serena Williams will begin her 2020 season with a return to the Auckland Open in January, her first appearance at the tournament since she was ousted in the second round in 2017.

The Auckland Open serves as a warm-up before the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 20 next year.

On her last Auckland appearance, then top seed Williams hit 88 unforced errors in windy conditions, losing to compatriot Madison Brengle, who was ranked 70 rungs lower.

“Oh man, I want to win that title so bad,” Williams was quoted as saying by the tournament organisers.

“Last time I was there I had so much going on and although I fought through to win my first match, I know I didn’t play to my level.

“I have such amazing memories that are really special to me from Auckland,” she added, referring to her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian just days before the 2017 tournament.

“I would really like to add some on court memories to that list.”

Williams, 37 years old, is due to compete at the US Open which begins next week but her preparations for the final Grand Slam of the year have been far from perfect with injuries limiting her time on court.

The 23-times Grand Slam champion retired from the Rogers Cup final in Toronto earlier this month because of back spasms, which led to her withdrawal from the Cincinnati Masters.

The Women’s Tennis Association ranked Williams as world Number 1 in singles on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017.

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