MELBOURNE: Every player in the world’s top 99 bar pregnant Victoria Azarenka has confirmed for the Australian Open, including Roger Federer and Serena Williams as they return from injury, organizers said Thursday.
The all-star field for the opening Grand Slam of 2017 at Melbourne Park will see Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber start as top seeds in a sign of the changing of the guard in world tennis.
It will also be notable for six-time tournament champion Williams, who is attempting to claim her 23rd major singles title to surpass Steffi Graf and set a new record for the Open Era.
On the men’s side, world number two Novak Djokovic will be aiming to hoist the trophy for a record seventh time.
“We have an exceptionally strong field for Australian Open 2017, and it’s exciting to welcome two new world number ones, and two new top seeds in Angie (Kerber) and Andy (Murray),” said tournament director Craig Tiley.
American powerhouse Williams has been out of action since September due to a shoulder injury that hindered her throughout the year.
She has signed on for the Auckland Classic in early January, along with sister Venus, as a warm-up for the Australian Open later that month.
Fellow former world number one Federer has also been sidelined for knee rehabilitation after undergoing the first operation of his career on a torn meniscus in February.
He is set to play the Hopman Cup in Perth ahead of the Australian Open and renew his rivalry in Melbourne with Rafael Nadal, who is also working to regain full fitness and is set to kick-off his year at the Brisbane International.
“We have been in regular contact with Roger and Rafa and both are ready and excited for the Aussie summer, with Roger heading to Perth and Rafa to Brisbane for the first time,” said Tiley.
“Like all the players, they can’t wait to get to Melbourne and start the year off well.”
The only player from the top 99 missing is two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka, who announced in July she was pregnant with the baby due towards the end of the year.