Serena's coach backs decision to skip Australian Open

Serena Williams' coach believes she made the correct decision to not play in this month's Australian Open, having missed too much practice time after becoming a mother for the first time just over four months ago.

Patrick Mouratoglou said Williams, 36, winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, had been unable to practice for two months because of medical issues after the birth of her daughter, Olympia. Mouratoglou said she will be back to 100 percent in time for tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami in March.

"It's never an easy decision to skip a Grand Slam, I guess for any professional, and for sure for Serena," Mouratoglou told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Friday. "But I would rather say it is a wise decision. It's not an easy decision, but it's the best, wise one.

"The thing is, when she gave birth, things didn't go as smooth as she expected. She had some complications -- I mean, the baby was perfect, but she had some issues afterwards -- and these medical issues delayed the moment that she could come back to practice."

The news was announced by Australian Open organizers Friday in Melbourne. Mouratoglou said that when he met up with Williams in Florida in mid-December, he could immediately see she would not be ready.

"I could see that those two months were missing. Those two months she could not practice after giving birth. So, I knew she was late, but with her, you never know, so we did the job, and then her idea was to do one match and see exactly where she was. But it was no surprise for me [that she was not ready]."

Williams played French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 30, losing out only in a deciding-match tiebreaker. Mouratoglou said that though he knew she was not ready, Williams needed to feel it herself.

"She always thinks she can find a way, even when she's not ready, so it's always difficult for me to convince her not to compete," Mouratoglou said. "So I thought it was a good idea for her to play a match and see exactly where she was and see if she felt like going to the Australian Open, and being not prepared the way she usually is.

"It is better to take a bit more time, and when you come back to the competition, you are ready to be yourself -- win or lose is another thing -- but at least be yourself and be at the top of what you can do."

Mouratoglou believes that aside from all the changes in her personal life, having married in November, Williams still has the same motivation to be the best.

"Your life changes, but the athlete, the competitor, is the same, exactly the same," he said. "I didn't see any difference. She thinks the same way, she acts the same and for those who were wondering. ... I can tell that she didn't change, when it comes to business, her tennis -- she is exactly the same person. I am not worrying at all.

"Whatever happened [on the tour] in her absence, if she comes back, it is to win. So she will come back to win. Will she do it or not? Only [time] will tell, but she comes back to win."