Ash Barty insisted she had no expectations Naomi Osaka would be her fourth-round opponent at the Australian Open after the Japanese star's surprise loss.

Barty and Osaka were on track to meet in the last 16 in Melbourne before the latter suffered a three-set loss to Amanda Anisimova on Friday.

World number one Barty, who crushed Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-3, always felt there were no certainties despite all the talk about a potential clash against Osaka.

"That was your expectation. My expectation was whoever it would be. I mean, each match is uncertain," she said.

"Each match of tennis, there are no certainties. You have no idea what's going to happen. You just have to navigate your way through as best you can that given moment.

"I have done a good job of that this week. Now it's exciting to get to play Amanda again. We've played before. It will be nice to play each other again in a big match."

Barty and Anisimova will meet for the first time since their 2019 French Open semi-final, which the former won on her way to a maiden grand slam title.

That match was a "turning point" in Barty's career. After losing the first set despite leading 5-1, Barty fell 3-0 behind in the second, only to fight back for a 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3 victory.

"I try to forget, but also, I remember that I learned a lot from that moment," Barty said.

"That was a turning point in my career, and you have to be able to take learnings from those moments, as hard as they are sometimes, and I was able to navigate and find a way through.

"At that point in my life, in my career, it was a massive turning point.

"Obviously it feels like it's a lifetime ago, but some of those memories are still really vivid. Without a doubt we will take that and use that experience, use those feelings and those emotions as best we can come Sunday."

Ash Barty continued her rampant run at the Australian Open, brushing aside Camila Giorgi in straight sets on Friday.

The world number one has dominated during the opening week in Melbourne and quickly eased past Giorgi, the Italian 30th seed, 6-2 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.

Barty has dropped just eight games in the first three rounds at her home grand slam, where she is eyeing her third major title.

The Australian is on track to face Naomi Osaka in a blockbuster fourth-round clash, although the Japanese star was involved in a tight contest with Amanda Anisimova.

Giorgi made a nervous start and back-to-back double faults handed Barty a break of serve in the second game.

Barty rolled into a 4-1 lead before digging herself out of a 15-40 hole to hold for 5-2.

Speaking after her second-round win, Barty was wary of Giorgi's ability to hit players off the court, but 16 unforced errors were costly for the Italian in the first set.

Giorgi tidied up the errors to begin the second set, but a double fault handed Barty two more break-point chances in the sixth game.

The reigning Wimbledon champion took the second of those when Giorgi pulled a backhand well wide.

That break proved to be enough for Barty, who closed out a fourth win in as many meetings with Giorgi.

DATA SLAM: Barty keeps up top-seed record

Top seeds have enjoyed good records at the Australian Open.

In the Open Era, the top seed has only once failed to make the last 16 at the Australian Open and that came in 1979 (Virginia Ruzici). Barty ensured she did not join the Romanian.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Barty – 11/13
Giorgi – 8/24

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Barty – 4/2
Giorgi – 0/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Barty – 3/5
Giorgi – 0/4

World number one Ash Barty is wary of Camila Giorgi's ability to "hit you off the court" ahead of their meeting at the Australian Open.

Barty crushed Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 in the second round on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.

The Australian has lost just three games in the opening two rounds at Melbourne Park, where she is bidding to win her third grand slam title.

Another Italian, 30th seed Giorgi, awaits in the third round and Barty is wary of the hard-hitting 30-year-old.

"Some very different challenges to what I've had the last couple matches. She has the ability to hold baseline, to control the centre of the court, be super, super aggressive off her serve and first shot, particularly off her return," she said.

"It's going to be a match where I'm going to have to serve well, bring in variety, make sure I can cover the court, neutralise the best that I can. She has the ability to hit you off the court without realising it's happening.

"I think it's going to be another match with some fresh challenges. But having played her before, she kind of knows my game, I kind of know hers. It's about going out there and trying to do it as good as I can."

In three previous meetings with Giorgi, Barty has never lost, although the most recent of those came at the 2018 Australian Open.

Barty has been in impressive form so far in Melbourne and was pleased with her performance against Bronzetti.

"Yeah, I felt good. I felt like I wanted to try to use my experience a little bit today, get off to a quick start. I felt like I was able to do that," she said.

"I served well. I was able to find plenty of forehands and control the match quite well, so pleased with that one."

Ash Barty continued her impressive start to the Australian Open with a resounding win over Lucia Bronzetti on Wednesday.

The world number one dropped just one game in the first round and was similarly rampant in the second, crushing Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena.

Barty, a two-time grand slam champion, raced through in just 52 minutes to set up a meeting with another Italian, 30th seed Camila Giorgi.

The Australian remains on track for a blockbuster fourth-round meeting with Japanese star Naomi Osaka.

Barty quickly broke the Bronzetti serve, taking a 2-0 lead after a double fault and tame backhand into the net from the Italian.

Bronzetti won just one point during her opening two service games as Barty broke again for 4-0, on her way to taking the first set in just 26 minutes.

The one-sided encounter continued to begin the second set, a pair of double faults from Bronzetti helping Barty break to love in the third game.

Barty remained untroubled, cruising through in style as her run in Melbourne continued.

DATA SLAM: Brilliant Barty continues early blitz

Barty has dropped just three games through two rounds at the Australian Open.

That is the fewest number of games she has lost through the opening two rounds of a grand slam in her career, better than last year's Australian Open (seven).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Barty – 21/14
Bronzetti – 6/14

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Barty – 8/2
Bronzetti – 1/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Barty – 5/6
Bronzetti – 0/0

World number one Ash Barty kicked off her Australian Open title bid with a convincing straight-sets victory over Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko on Monday.

The two-time grand slam winner, whose previous best finish on home soil at Melbourne Park was a run to the semi-finals in 2020, prevailed 6-0 6-1 in a time of just 54 minutes.

Barty held serve throughout the one-sided contest with Tsurenko and is now unbroken in 41 successive service games across her last four matches.

"It's certainly nice to be back on home soil and playing as well as I did tonight. It was a lot of fun out here," Barty said in her on-court interview.

"I felt like it was nice and clean. End-to-end I did a good job in adjusting. Tonight it was just nice and solid to get out here and play a decent match and feel like I enjoyed it."

Tsurenko took Barty to three sets when they met in this competition two years ago, but the world number 113 was outclassed on this occasion.

Looking to build on her recent Adelaide International success, Barty eased through the first set as she dropped just 12 points.

Barty was just as dominant in the second set, but she squandered two match points in the sixth game to miss out on a double-bagel to begin her campaign in Melbourne.

Not that it mattered a great deal, though, as the 25-year-old emphatically served out the match to set up a meeting with Italian qualifier Lucia Bronzetti for a place in round three.

 

DATA SLAM: Barty makes statement start

Barty came through this first-round match with minimal stress and looks in great shape as she bids to become the first Australian to win here since 1978.

The pressure is no doubt on as the pre-tournament favourite, with no top-seeded player in the women's draw failing to make at least round four since Virginia Ruzici in 1979.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Barty – 14/17
Tsurenko – 4/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Barty – 5/0
Tsurenko – 0/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Barty – 5/8
Tsurenko – 0/2

The tennis season has begun with Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Paula Badosa and Thanasi Kokkinakis among the champions at small-scale events in Australia.

Yet there has been one dominant story in the sport and little else has had a look-in in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Now that Novak Djokovic knows his fate, there is the welcome prospect of eyes turning to matters on the tennis court, rather than the Federal Court.

With the action getting under way in Melbourne on Monday, Stats Perform looks at the main protagonists and what the numbers tell us about another high-stakes grand slam.

Djokovic absence blows open men's draw

As defending champion Djokovic heads for home, it is worth a reminder of how he has dominated this tournament.

Nine of his grand slam titles have come in Melbourne, and he has taken the trophy in each of the last three years, helping him cosy up alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 majors, an all-time record they share. Of the 'Big Three', only Nadal is in the draw this year, with Federer currently on the injured list.

Djokovic has the highest win percentage in the Open Era (since 1969) at the Australian Open, among players with 20 or more wins (91.1 per cent – W82 L8). He was hoping to join Nadal (13 French Opens) and Margaret Court (11 Australian Opens) in the exclusive club of players to reach double figures for singles titles at one slam.

The Serb was also aspiring to become the first man in the Open Era to win four consecutive Australian Opens. It happened once before the tour turned professional, with Roy Emerson winning five in a row from 1963 to 1967. Djokovic has left Melbourne with the title every time that he has made it through to the semi-finals.

 

So who takes the title now?

Only Bjorn Borg (89.2 per cent) has a higher winning percentage in grand slam matches than Nadal (87.7 per cent) and Djokovic (87.5 per cent) in the Open Era, among players with 100 or more wins. So why not Nadal?

The 35-year-old and Djokovic have carved up 12 of the last 14 grand slam titles, Nadal winning four of those (three French Opens, one US Open). He is battling back from a foot injury lay-off and coronavirus, and might need to get the early rounds out of the way without undue stress to stand a chance at the business end.

The two exceptions in the Nadal-Djokovic sequence of slam dominance have come at the US Open, with Dominic Thiem winning in New York in 2020 and Daniil Medvedev triumphing at Djokovic's expense in last year's Flushing Meadows final. Thiem is not in Australia, but world number two Medvedev is, looking to become the third Russian man to win two slams, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

The last man other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to secure back-to-back slam singles title was Andre Agassi (US Open 1999 and Australian Open 2000), but that is Medvedev's objective now, and he has the game to pull it off.

Nadal has reached at least the quarter-final stage in 15 of his last 16 grand slam appearances, winning six of those majors (four French Opens and two US Opens), so he may well be a factor.

Who else is in the frame? Alexander Zverev probably, having reached the quarter-finals in Australia in the last two seasons (SF in 2020 and QF in 2021). He won the Olympic Games and ATP Finals titles last year, so a grand slam is an obvious next step. He might want to keep double faults in check though, having served a tour-high 113 in slams last season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian semi-finals in 2019 and 2021, so throw him into the mix too, and Matteo Berrettini might be a threat. The Italian, a runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, served more aces than any other player in grand slams last year (311 aces, 16.4 on average per match).

 

Others have more modest ambitions

Andy Murray is back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019, when he lost in the first round against Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets and was more or less given his last rites as a tennis pro after the match, having indicated he was close to retirement.

The five-time Australian Open runner-up last won a match in this tournament in 2017, when he reached round four. A tough opener against Nikoloz Basilashvili awaits.

Spanish 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez will make his 80th appearance in a grand slam and become the second man in the Open Era with 80 or more appearances at the four majors, after Federer (81).

Do not expect an Australian to be men's champion, by the way. The last time an Australian reached the men's singles final was 2005, when Lleyton Hewitt lost against Safin, and the last home champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

Barty backed in stacked women's draw

For the first time since 1997, neither Serena nor Venus Williams will take part in the Australian Open. Yet the women's tour is in rude health, even without those great bastions.

Ash Barty is world number one and a standout pick for many, only enhancing her claims after winning an Adelaide International title in the run-up to this fortnight.

But there is staggering depth on the women's side at present, and Barty will face stiff competition.

Incredibly, the last five grand slam finals have featured 10 different women, and teenager Emma Raducanu's against-all-odds US Open triumph in September shows best of all that new stars are emerging.

Yet since 2000, only three non-seeded players have reached the women's singles final at the Australian Open: Serena Williams in 2007, Justine Henin in 2010 and Garbine Muguruza in 2020. 

Barty could become the first Australian to be women's champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, and the first to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull lost to Hana Mandlikova in 1980.

The Queenslander is the top seed, and the last time the number one failed to reach at least the fourth round at Melbourne Park was in 1979, when Virginia Ruzici lost her opening match. Barty ended a long wait for an Australian winner of the women's title at Wimbledon last year, so why not closer to home as well?

 

Naomi Osaka is back, so what should we expect?

Truth be told, that's hard to know. Osaka took time out from tennis after the US Open to focus on her mental health and enjoyed hanging out with friends, before deciding she missed tennis enough to go back on tour.

She had three wins at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament recently before withdrawing from a fourth match, saying her body had "got a shock" from the intensity. As defending champion in the season's first major, she has a target on her back and will need to find a way to handle that.

Over the past six seasons, only Osaka has managed to win back-to-back grand slam singles titles among the women, and she has done so twice (US Open 2018 and Australian Open 2019, plus US Open 2020 and Australian Open 2021).

The last player to win back-to-back women's Australian Open singles titles was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013), so it does not happen regularly.

Osaka has an 85 per cent win rate at this tournament: since 2000, only Jennifer Capriati (90 per cent) and Serena Williams (89 per cent) have had a higher win percentage in the main draw.

 

You want challengers to the big two? Try sticking a pin in the draw

The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, which goes to the champion, is a trophy that upwards of a dozen women will seriously believe they can win.

Aryna Sabalenka has reached the semi-finals of the last two slams but is mired in some kind of hellish serving groove, having made 74 double faults in her last four matches and lost the last three in a row.

Anett Kontaveit won a tour-high 39 matches on hard courts last year but has only been to one grand slam quarter-final – last year in Australia, losing to Simona Halep.

What about Ons Jabeur, who matched Kontaveit for a tour-high 48 wins across all surfaces last year? The Tunisian is queen of the drop shot, making 147 successful such plays on tour last year, more than any other player, and recently reached the top 10 in the WTA rankings for the first time.

Maria Sakkari reached two slam semi-finals last year, the first of her career, and the form of Barbora Krejcikova and Badosa in the past week in Melbourne marks them out as contenders. Both are recent fast-risers, Krejcikova already with a French Open title to show.

WTA Finals champion Muguruza could be the second Spaniard to twice reach the Melbourne title match, after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1994 v Steffi Graf and 1995 v Mary Pierce). Spain has never had an Australian Open women's singles winner: former French Open and Wimbledon champ Muguruza is an authentic contender.

Halep was runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, a semi-finalist in 2020 and quarter-finalist last year, and a Melbourne Summer Set title was a handy warm-up for the Romanian. Consider her, too.

Monica Seles, in 1991, was the last player to triumph on her debut in the main draw, but she was already a grand slam winner (1990 French Open). Given the strength of the line-up, the prospect of a bolter coming through this field is unlikely, even if the example of Raducanu tells us anything is possible.

Novak Djokovic has been drawn against Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round of the Australian Open as the defending champion awaits to hear if he can stay in the country.

World number one Djokovic was last week given a medical exemption to enter Australia, despite not being vaccinated, only for border officials to block it upon his arrival.

The 20-time grand slam winner was detained for four days while waiting to appeal the case on Monday, which went in his favour at Melbourne Circuit Court.

Djokovic has since started training ahead of the Australian Open, which begins next Monday, though immigration minister Alex Hawke may yet cancel his visa for a second time. 

A decision on whether Djokovic can compete in the first grand slam of the year, which he has won a record nine times, could be made on Thursday.

Should he be given the all clear to take part, Djokovic will face compatriot Kecmanovic in the first round at Melbourne Park.

Thursday's draw, which was delayed by one hour and 15 minutes for unspecified reasons, also saw fellow 20-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal paired with Marcos Giron.

Nadal is in the same half of the draw as Djokovic, meaning the pair could meet in the semi-finals, while third seed Alexander Zverev is also in the top half.

Second seed and 2021 finalist Daniil Medvedev is in the bottom half along with Stefanos Tsitsipas and will take on Henri Laaksonen first up.

In the women's draw, Australia's world number one Ash Barty will begin her quest for glory on home soil against a qualifier.

The top seed is on a collision course with defending champion Naomi Osaka, who goes face-to-face with Camila Osorio in round one on her return from a four-month break.

Reigning US Open winner Emma Raducanu is up against Sloane Stephens, who won the New York major in 2017, while Storm Sanders awaits second seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Ash Barty defeated Elena Rybakina in straight sets to claim the Adelaide International title, while Simona Halep clinched silverware in Melbourne.

World number one and heavy favourite Barty prevailed 6-3 6-2 against Rybakina to claim the Adelaide title for a second time in three seasons.

The 25-year-old recovered from 40-15 down in the seventh game and went on to immediately earn the only break of the opening set.

Barty did not look back as she held throughout the second set, meaning she went 35 consecutive games without losing serve to conclude the tournament.

After securing a 14th WTA singles title in a little over an hour, Barty now turns focus to next week's Sydney Tennis Classic ahead of beginning her Australian Open campaign.

"I feel good leading up to an Australian Open like I have every year," Barty, who hit 17 winners to 13 unforced errors, said after seeing off Rybakina. 

"Each and every preparation is unique. We take it for what comes and what it is, move on, try and do the best that we can in every opportunity.

"It has absolutely no effect on the way that I prepare or the way I'm thinking leading forward just because it's a Grand Slam. It doesn't change for us."

Halep, one of Barty's likely rivals for the Australian Open crown, also made a bright start to the year by overcoming Veronika Kudermetova in the Melbourne Summer Set 1 final.

The number two seed, who is aiming to put last year's injury-ravaged and trophyless season behind her, came out on top 6-2 6-3.

She recovered from an early break down in the first set and again in the second to make it 23 career titles, and a first since the 2020 Italian Open.

It could easily have been a different story, however, as Kudermetova had three break points to move 3-0 ahead in the second set, but the Russian could not take full advantage.

Amanda Anisimova defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich at the Melbourne Summer Set 2 final to claim the first WTA title of the season, and her second overall.

Belarusian qualifier Sasnovich hit back in style to take the second set 6-1 after losing the opener 7-5, but Anisimova recovered from a break down to edge the deciding set 6-4.

In doing so, Anisimova became the first American to win a title on Australian soil since Sofia Kenin's Australian Open triumph in 2020.

Ash Barty moved a step closer to a second Adelaide International title in three seasons as she crushed defending champion Iga Swiatek's hopes in the semi-finals.

Competing as a stepping stone towards her principal goal of challenging for the Australian Open title later in the month, home favourite Barty sped to a 6-2 6-4 win over the 2020 French Open winner.

She served fewer aces than Swiatek – five to the seven fired down by the 20-year-old Pole – but Barty's powerful forehand proved decisive as she made snappy work of ending the contest.

Barty will face Elena Rybakina in Sunday's final, after the Kazakh beat Japan's Misaki Doi 6-4 6-3. Queenslander Barty beat Dayana Yastremska in the 2020 final.

Having won the French Open and Wimbledon already in her career, Barty will be the favourite at the Australian Open, which begins on January 17 in Melbourne.

The world number one, by seeing off ninth-ranked Swiatek, boosted her win-loss record against top-10 WTA rivals to 8-1 since the beginning of last year.

Barty said, quoted on the WTA website: "It is exciting to be able to play well here in Australia. This is where I want to play my best tennis. I want to give myself an opportunity to play for titles in Australia.

"It's something really exciting to start the year off as an Aussie player in front of our home fans."

Reflecting on a positive performance, Barty, who has also reached the doubles final with Storm Sanders, said: "I felt like on Iga's service games I was able to get into most of them, which is important when you're playing someone who can dominate with that first ball and first strike.

"I felt like I was able to build pressure over time, making her play a lot of balls on her service games, not giving her too many cheapies."

Swiatek is entered into next week's Sydney Classic and learned on Saturday that she faces a testing opener there, having been drawn to face Great Britain's US Open champion Emma Raducanu in a standout first-round match.

At the Melbourne Summer Set 2 tournament, Russian third seed Daria Kasatkina suffered a shock 6-2 6-0 semi-final defeat at the hands of American world number 78 Amanda Anisimova.

Anisimova goes on to face fellow unseeded player Aliaksandra Sasnovich for the title, after the Belarusian beat American Ann Li 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 6-3.

Ash Barty set a new personal best for aces in a match as she rifled 17 past Sofia Kenin on the way through to the Adelaide International 1 semi-finals.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Barty won 31 of 32 points on first serve in a ruthless 6-3 6-4 victory over the 2020 Australian Open winner.

It sets up a tantalising last-four clash with Poland's defending champion Iga Swiatek, who is a frequent practice partner for Australian home favourite Barty.

Explaining her stunning serving performance, Barty said: "I think towards the end Sofia was kind of leaning one way or the other, and I was able to kind of get up and hit my spots."

Facing former French Open winner Swiatek will be a major early-season test for the world number one, with the Warsaw-born 20-year-old fending off former grand slam winner Victoria Azarenka 6-3 2-6 6-1 in Friday's quarter-final.

The other semi-final in Adelaide will see Misaki Doi take on Elena Rybakina after both won in three sets to get there, seeing off Kaja Juvan and Shelby Rogers respectively.

Melbourne Park is staging two tournaments this week, and there is the prospect of a starry final in Melbourne Summer Set 1, with Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep both through to the last four.

Top seed Osaka beat experienced German Andrea Petkovic 6-1 7-5, while second seed Halep had to scrap for a 6-2 5-7 6-4 win against Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.

Osaka took inspiration from Petkovic's fight in the second set of their contest. Quoted on the tournament website, she said: "It was really cool how she didn't give up for any point, so I just felt like I should do the same thing and see what happens."

Halep said her encounter with Golubic had been "really difficult", adding: "I didn't really trust that I can win this match, but I fought to the end, and I'm very proud of this."

Saturday's semi-finals of Melbourne Summer Set 2 will seed Daria Kasatkina take on Amanda Anisimova, while Ann Li plays Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Ash Barty produced an impressive comeback to defeat Coco Gauff in her first singles match since the US Open.

World number one Barty moved into the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International with a battling 4-6 7-5 6-1 triumph.

The home hope, who is favourite to win the Australian Open when it starts later this month, was a set and a break down against the American wonderkid before ultimately progressing in two hours and 12 minutes.

Exhausted after a six-month road trip that included Wimbledon glory last year, Barty took a break from the WTA Tour after her third-round exit at Flushing Meadows on September 5.

Her return came in a marquee matchup at the WTA 500 event which did not disappoint, as Barty battled to win 11 of the last 13 games and prevail.

The victor stemmed the early errors she was making on the forehand side, with Gauff paying the price for only converting three of her 15 break-point opportunities. 

It was only the second meeting between Barty and Gauff, with the Australian having to retire with an arm injury while leading their first encounter in Rome last year.

"I felt like I played a pretty good quality match considering it was my first match in a few months," said Barty.

"In the first set I was able to create opportunities but just was a little bit slack on the execution, rusty in the sense of stringing quality points together.

"Midway through the second set I was able to find my rhythm a little bit better on serve and just continued to be aggressive on my forehand. I just found execution a little bit more.

"Coco played great and forced me to hit a lot of balls. I felt I got better and better as the match went on. It was nice to get some court time."

An intriguing last-eight tie lies in wait for Barty. She will either play former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin or compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic.

And there was more good news for Barty as two of her main rivals for glory were eliminated.

Second seed Aryna Sabalenka was surprisingly beaten as Kaja Juvan, the world number 100, prevailed 7-6 (8-6) 6-1.

Maria Sakkari, the third seed, also crashed out, beaten in three sets by Shelby Rogers, the player who knocked Barty out of the US Open the last time the Australian was on court.

There are two other tournaments taking place this week, both at WTA 250 level.

At Melbourne Summer Set 1, second seed Simona Halep joined Naomi Osaka in round two with a routine 6-4 6-2 win over Destanee Aiava.

The field is not as strong at Melbourne Summer Set 2, where the highest seed remaining, Daria Kasatkina, progressed after opponent Anna Kalinskaya, having already lost the first set, withdrew through injury.

World number one Ash Barty will start her 2022 season at the Adelaide International along with eight of the other current 10 top players in the world.

Barty has held top spot in the women's rankings since September 2019 and collected five titles – including Wimbledon – in the 2021 season but missed the French Open with a hip injury.

She also opted to not play in the season-ending WTA Finals in Mexico due to coronavirus-enforced quarantine concerns that could disrupt her preparation for the following campaign.

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) confirmed on Friday that Barty would begin her 2022 season in Adelaide on January 2, along with defending champion Iga Swiatek, WTA Finals victor Garbine Muguruza and Roland Garros winner Barbora Krejcikova, as the world's elite players prepare for the Australian Open.

The entry list for the WTA 500 tournaments also includes Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Barbara Bencic, who finished runner-up to Swiatek in 2021, former world number one Karolina Pliskova and US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

The field boasts 12 major trophies between them, but three grand slam winners will kick-start their seasons in Melbourne the day after.

Naomi Osaka, who is aiming to defend her title at the Australian Open, gets her preparations underway in the Melbourne Summer Set.

Two-time major winner Simona Halep and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu will play in the Melbourne Summer Set.

The trio are among 20 of the top 50 ranked players in the world for the two WTA 250 tournaments starting on January 3, with the entry list split between the competitions the week before matches start.

Raducanu will feature in just her eighth Tour-level event, and her fourth tournament since winning her first major, while Osaka will be appearing for the first time since an early defeat in the third round of the US Open to Fernandez.

Novak Djokovic has been included in the official entry list for the 2022 Australian Open, with Tennis Australia adamant that no loopholes are being explored.

The world number one, who has won nine of his 20 grand slam titles in Melbourne, has not yet disclosed his COVID-19 vaccination status, meaning there is doubt over whether he will be able to participate.

Every person competing or attending the grand slam next month will need to have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

However, despite the uncertainty, the 34-year-old was named in the official list of players for the tournament draw.

Djokovic had already been named in Serbia's team for the ATP Cup, which is to be held in Sydney, leading to speculation that he could enter Australia by travelling directly to New South Wales, which has different COVID-19 restrictions to the state of Victoria, and may then seek a medical exemption to get around the rules applying to unvaccinated travellers.

James Merlino, Victoria's deputy premier, responded to these reports, which also suggested Djokovic had the backing of Tennis Australia.

"My view on this is really clear and really simple," Merlino said on Wednesday. "Everyone's looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

"They're the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players. It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition."

Tennis Australia responded to Merlino's comments with a statement of their own.

"Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking 'loopholes' within this process is simply untrue. Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we," the statement read.

"Any application for a medical exemption must follow strict government guidelines based on ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) clinical advice. This is the same process that applies to any person wanting to enter Australia."

While Djokovic's participation is unclear, Serena Williams is a big-name absentee. The 40-year-old, who is one shy of matching Margaret Court's record tally of 23 grand slams, had been expected to play in Melbourne.

Roger Federer had already confirmed his absence, but Rafael Nadal is set to compete for the first time since August.

World number two and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev takes his place in the draw, as does 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

Australian world number one Ash Barty headlines the women's field, with Naomi Osaka, US Open winner Emma Raducanu and WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza also in the draw.

Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, has decided to skip the event to focus on her mental wellbeing.

Ash Barty has won the WTA's Player of the Year award for a second time, while Emma Raducanu's sensational 2021 season was capped with the Newcomer of the Year prize on Tuesday.

Barty collected the tour's top individual year-end award in 2019, having won the French Open and finished that season as the world number one.

And after Sofia Kenin succeeded her in 2020, Barty is back on top this year.

This was the third straight season the Australian superstar claimed the year-end number one ranking, and it saw her land a second major title at Wimbledon. Barty's five WTA titles in 2021 were unsurpassed.

But she has had to share the limelight in recent months with Raducanu, and that was the case again as the 19-year-old Briton was unsurprisingly hailed as the tour's star newcomer.

Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a grand slam when she swept to glory at the US Open, having also impressed in a run to the last 16 at Wimbledon.

The teenager, who has risen from 343rd to 19th in the rankings in the past year, won 10 straight matches without dropping a set from the first qualifying round to the final at Flushing Meadows.

Elsewhere, Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova collected a pair of awards, scooping Most Improved Player and, alongside Olympic, WTA Finals and French Open-winning partner Katerina Siniakova, the Doubles Team of the Year.

Carla Suarez Navarro, who retired in 2020 and was then diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, returned to the tour cancer free in 2021 for a farewell season and carried off the Comeback Player of the Year award.

Ash Barty has announced her engagement to Liverpool fan and golfer Garry Kissick, capping a memorable year in style.

Barty added another sparkler to her collection when she revealed an engagement ring on Tuesday, having already landed the glistening Wimbledon trophy and an Olympic medal in the 2021 season.

She posted a picture of herself and Kissick on Instagram, showing off her ring and captioning the shot "Future Husband".

Kissick is a trainee professional at Brookwater Golf Club, a venue close to Brisbane, and is often seen in a Liverpool Football Club shirt, as was the case with the engagement picture.

He and Barty have visited Liverpool's home ground of Anfield together.

Speaking about having the likes of Kissick and coach Craig Tyzzer with her on the road, Barty said during her run to the Wimbledon title in July: "It's nice to be able to share some of these awesome moments with those that put so much time and energy into my career and allow me, encourage me, help me kind of work and figure out a plan and a way that they try and achieve our dreams. I think being able to share that with them is really special."

Barty won a bronze in mixed doubles at Tokyo 2020 alongside long-time friend John Peers, describing that achievement as "a dream come true".

She also won the Yarra Valley Classic, the Stuttgart Open, and WTA 1000 titles at Miami and Cincinnati before calling time on her season after a third-round exit from the US Open, where she lost to Shelby Rogers.

Barty finished the season as world number one for a third successive year, despite her recent inactivity.

She said a major triumph in her homeland was a priority for 2022, saying: "My focus is now on the Australian summer and doing everything I can to win the Australian Open. I can't wait to play at home again."

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