World number one Barty to end year-long absence in Adelaide

Sydney (AFP) –


World number one Ashleigh Barty will make her first top-level tennis appearance in nearly a year when she joins a star-studded exhibition in Adelaide this month, organisers said on Thursday.

Australia's Barty, who has remained top of the rankings despite not playing since last February, joins a field which also includes major-winners Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep.

Men's Grand Slam champions Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, along with Jannik Sinner, the highly rated world number 36 from Italy, will also play the event on January 29.

"I am looking forward to playing my first match for the 2021 season in Adelaide," Barty said in a Tennis Australia statement.

It will be Barty's first match since her semi-final loss to Petra Kvitova at the Qatar Open last February.

The one-day exhibition, part of the build-up to the Australian Open Grand Slam from February 8, will feature four singles matches in front of a limited crowd.

The presence of tennis's top players in Adelaide has rankled with some of their rivals, as they were allowed to do their 14-day mandatory coronavirus quarantine in more luxurious conditions.

Most of the players at the delayed Australian Open are quarantining in host city Melbourne, where Russia's Yulia Putintseva has complained repeatedly of mice in her room.

Although Barty stayed away from tennis for much of the coronavirus-wrecked 2020 season, she still managed to make sporting headlines.

In September the multi-talented Aussie, who famously played professional cricket during a hiatus from tennis, won a suburban golf tournament near Brisbane.