American great Serena Williams was left out of the China Open tennis draw on Friday as she appeared to call time on her season following her meltdown at the US Open. Williams’ name, along with that of her sister Venus, did not appear on a list of 64 players ahead of the start of the tournament in Beijing, one of the women’s tour’s mandatory events. It comes less than three weeks after the tempestuous US Open final, where Williams, 37, accused the umpire of lying and sexism in an angry rant during her 6-2, 6-4 defeat to Japan’s Naomi Osaka.
In extraordinary scenes, Williams went into a tailspin after a warning for receiving coaching from the sidelines, smashing her racquet and being docked a point and then a game.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion later said she wanted to “move on” from the incident, but maintained that women players could not get away with “even half of what a guy can do”.
“Right now we are not, as it’s proven, in that same position,” she told Australia’s Channel Ten.
“But that’s neither here nor there. I’m just trying most of all to recover from that and move on.”
The episode polarised tennis with many expressing sympathy for Williams, while others said her behaviour was out of line.
Osaka was in tears during the victory ceremony for her first Grand Slam win as boos rang out from the New York crowd, prompting Williams to call for calm.
“We cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with,” Czech-born American Martina Navratilova wrote in the New York Times.
“In fact, this is the sort of behaviour that no one should be engaging in on the court.”
Reports from the United States said Williams’ season is now over, which would make it the fourth year in a row she has curtailed her playing commitments — although in 2017 she took time off to have a baby.
In 2016 she called it quits after the US Open citing a shoulder injury, and in 2015 she took a break after narrowly failing to win all four majors in the same year, following a shattering defeat in New York to Italy’s Roberta Vinci.
The biggest event left on the 2018 calendar is next month’s elite, eight-player WTA Finals in Singapore. Williams is currently 11th on the Race to Singapore rankings.
Williams, who won her first Grand Slam title in New York in 1999, captured her 23rd while pregnant at last year’s Australian Open, but she has since stuttered on the brink of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
After returning to the circuit as a mother in March, Williams reached the French Open last 16 before pulling out injured, and she lost the Wimbledon final to Angelique Kerber.
Williams said she felt “on the cusp of this amazing moment” at the US Open before the straight-sets loss to Osaka, 20, who stunned her childhood hero.