MELBOURNE (Reuters) - 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, organizers 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 U.S. 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.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Nick Mulvenney)