Naomi Osaka will make her return to tennis in January at the Melbourne Summer Set warm-up event, in the build-up to the Australian Open.
The Japanese star has not played since last year’s US Open, after taking time away from the game to focus on her mental health.
But the 24-year-old posted footage of herself training on her Instagram recently, prompting suggestions that her comeback was imminent.
And that speculation has turned out to be true, as the four-time major winner is scheduled to return just in time to defend her Australian Open trophy.
The Melbourne Summer Set will feature two women’s warm-up events over two weeks at Melbourne Park and contains a stacked field with a number of the world’s best players.
US Open champion Emma Raducanu is another who will use the tournament to acclimatise to Melbourne conditions ahead of her first major in Australia.
The British number one became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows in September and will likely be seeded at a major for the first time next month.
Raducanu has partnered with Angelique Kerber’s former coach Torben Beltz, having parted ways with Andrew Richardson after her victory in New York.
Former world number one Simona Halep will also be hoping to build on a strong end to last season.
The Romanian was plagued by injuries in 2021, which has seen her slip to 20th in the rankings but did reach the final of her home event in Cluj at the Transylvania Open.
While the Summer Set will see the likes of Osaka, Raducanu and Halep in action, another warm-up event in Adelaide will feature even more top stars.
Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty will start her season at the Adelaide International in the first week of January, along with nine of the world’s top 10.
Barty finished the year ranked first for the third successive season and is the favourite to win the opening Slam of the year in her home country.
World number nine Iga Świątek is the defending champion in Adelaide and will seek to win her fourth WTA title.
The Polish star beat Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic in the final last year but that remains her only title on the hard-court surface.
While the majority of the world’s top names will be in action ahead of the Australian Open, 23-time Slam winner Serena Williams will not be there.
The 40-year-old has withdrawn from the first major of the year, claiming she is not physically fit enough to compete at this stage.
Williams remains one Slam triumph away from equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 major victories.News Now - Sport News