Venus Williams coming to Australian Open: Tournament chief

Melbourne: Seven-times grand slam champion Venus Williams will still play the Australian Open despite withdrawing from her scheduled warm-up tournament in New Zealand for health reasons, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

American Williams, who has been receiving treatment for Sjogren`s syndrome, an auto-immune disease, pulled out of the January 2-7 Auckland Classic, organisers said earlier this week.

Tiley said he had spoken to Williams`s agent to check her availability after news of the withdrawal.

"I wanted to touch base but there`s no change for her. She`s coming," Tiley said in comments published by the Australian newspaper on Friday.

Williams withdrew from September`s US Open with Sjogren`s, a chronic disease where white blood cells attack moisture-producing glands causing fatigue and joint soreness.

The five-times Wimbledon champion has since slipped to a world ranking of 102, but said last month that she hoped to return to the tour full-time in 2012 and to climb back up to top of the rankings.

She will play in a mixed doubles exhibition match with her younger sister and fellow former world number one Serena in Florida on Friday to help raise funds for a youth education charity.

The Australian Open starts on January 16.

Bureau Report

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