Serena Williams not ready for Rome return

Four-time champion Serena Williams has pulled out of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia next week.

The 23-time grand slam singles champion skipped this week's Madrid Open to step up her training, with the French Open fast approaching.

Williams suffered an early exit at Indian Wells on her return from maternity leave in March before she was beaten by Naomi Osaka in the first round of the Miami Open.

Tournament organisers on Wednesday revealed the 36-year-old has opted against starting her clay-court season in Rome.

Williams' latest withdrawal comes less than three weeks before the second major of the year gets under way at Roland Garros. 

A tweet from the Internazionali BNL d'Italia account stated: "We are so sad to announce that @serenawilliams, a 4-time Champion in Rome, has withdrawn from #ibi18.Obviously we can't wait to see her again on Foro Italico's red clay, perhaps in 2019?"

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