Serena Williams to start 2017 season in Auckland

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Serena Williams

Serena Williams (Photo: Cynthia Lum/Icon Sportswire)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Second-ranked Serena Williams will begin her 2017 season and Australian Open buildup at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, organizers confirmed Tuesday.

The 22-time Grand Slam singles winner had already announced she would miss the Hopman Cup mixed teams tournament in Perth, which has often been a key part of her leadup to the first Grand Slam of the season.

Williams held the top singles ranking for 186 weeks until the American was recently overtaken by Angelique Kerber. Williams' sister, Venus, has played the Auckland tournament for the past three years, winning the singles title in 2015.

In a statement, Serena Williams said the ASB Classic "can really set you up for a great run in Melbourne and I will be looking to start my year strongly in Auckland."

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