The first hints that Serena Williams' tennis return is near

Australian Open to feature basketball

The 36-year-old has not played since winning last year's tournament in Melbourne - when she was pregnant with her first child.

Williams also got married this year and doubts have been raised about her future in the game but she will reportedly defend her title.

Tournament director Craig Tiley says that Serena Williams' return to competition is "very likely" to come at the 2018 Australian Open, according to the Herald Sun.

Tiley told the Herald Sun the 23-time Grand Slam victor is "very likely" to return to tennis in Melbourne.

Now ranked No.22 in the world, Williams told CNN in July she was intending to return to tennis - echoing the words of her spokespeople - and if the American does show up in Melbourne, it would come about four-and-a-half months after she gave birth.

Williams has won the Australia Open seven times.

The Australian Open kicks off next month and Williams will be looking for her 24th Grand Slam singles title and eighth at the tournament.

"There's no question she'll be ready in our view", Tiley said, according to BBC Sport.

'It would be a pretty significant accomplishment for her to be able to do that'.

Tiley described the Australian Open, which will be held from January 15-28, as a "family-friendly event".

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