World No.1 Ashleigh Barty will return to tour after an 11-month absence to lead a stellar field at the Gippsland Trophy and Yarra Valley Classic, two WTA 500 events set to be played simultaneously as part of the Melbourne Summer Series at Melbourne Park starting January 31st.
The tournaments have been named to recognize key regions of the State of Victoria to promote the reinvigoration of the state following the tragic challenges faced due to last summer's bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.
A champion in Adelaide in 2020, Barty will return to action in Melbourne after being unable to train and travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic last season. The collective field in Melbourne features 49 of the Top 50, including 15 Slam champions. Only World No.9 Kiki Bertens has opted out of the Australian Open swing due to injury.
Joining Barty on the entry list are No.2 Simona Halep, No.3 Naomi Osaka, 23-time major champion Serena Williams, and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, each of whom will be playing their first events of the 2021 season. Reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, who kicked off her season at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open, is also set to play in Melbourne.
Melbourne will also see the much-anticipated return of Canada's Bianca Andreescu. The 2019 US Open champion will be returning to competition after missing the entirety of the 2020 season due to injury.
To see the full acceptance list, click here.
“There’s no doubt this will be an historic week of tennis, and is the biggest-ever AO lead-in week we have seen in Australia," Tennis Australia Head of Major Events Cameron Pearson said. "It’s an exciting prospect for fans both onsite and watching around the world.
“While we know the circumstances are unique this year, it is a huge coup to secure such strong playing fields. I hope fans, whether onsite or watching at home, will embrace what will be a high quality week of events.”
The concurrent WTA 500 events will feature a 64 player draw, with the top-32 ranked players split across the two events to determine the Top 16 seeds, and the remaining players will be randomly drawn into each event.
Qualifying and Main Draw play begins on January 31st and the events will conclude on February 6th. The Australian Open begins on February 8th.