New mum Serena Williams has accepted a place at the Australian Open and is “anticipated to return” to the tournament in January, less than five months after giving birth, organisers said Friday.
The defending women’s champion was among 98 of the 100 top women, and all of the men’s top 100, to be “confirmed” for the season’s opening Grand Slam, they said.
World number ones Simona Halep and 16-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will both be in Melbourne, but all eyes will be on Williams, who won this year’s tournament while pregnant.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said this week it was “highly likely” she will make her comeback at the opening Grand Slam of the season, and he repeated those sentiments Friday.
“Last year’s tournament broke all of the records and we look forward to welcoming back new mum Serena as she attempts to equal Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slams,” he said in a statement.
“We are definitely a family-friendly event and many players including reigning champion Roger Federer travel with their children to Melbourne so we remain optimistic that she will return.”
Williams gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September and married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last month.
The tournament is also set to see the return of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka, who have all been out with injuries.
“We have been in regular contact with Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka, who are all set for the Aussie summer,” said Tiley.
“They will all have lower rankings meaning there’s a real chance we’ll finally see a breakthrough from one of the rising stars like Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem or David Goffin.”
The only two players within the top 100 to pull out so far are Russian world number 12 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who recently underwent wrist surgery, and China’s Zheng Saisai, with a right knee injury.
The tournament takes place from January 15-28.