Tennis

Ploy to lure Serena Down Under

TENNIS Australia has made sure Serena Williams’s management is aware of a WTA Tour rule which allows her to make a late entry to its summer tournaments, including Sunday’s Brisbane International.

Williams’s announcement on Christmas morning (Australian time) that she will play at a rich Abu Dhabi exhibition on Saturday has crystallised a possible path of preparation for her to defend her Australian Open crown from January 15.

Brisbane International tournament director Cameron Pearson told The Courier Mail that while the TA-owned WTA Tournament issued both of its two women’s wildcards last week there remains a rule by which Williams gain entry to the Queensland Tennis Centre event which starts on Sunday.

“WTA events have two Top 20 wildcards available for players who meet specific criteria and previous grand Slam champions is one such criteria,’’ Pearson said.

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“If not used at Premier events (such as the Brisbane International), they go to next-in players at qualifying sign in deadline. We have reached out over time to Serena’s management to ensure they are aware this is an option for Brisbane and Sydney.’’

The draw for the Brisbane International is on Saturday morning.

Williams’s readiness for Grand Slam intensity, a little over three months after the birth of her first child, will become more apparent to her in Abu Dhabi.

Some well-placed US media commentators have expressed doubt that Williams will play the Australian Open even since her announcement she would play the exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

Although it is an exhibition, she will find strong opposition from French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko on Saturday.

The Sydney International starts on January 7 with a strong women’s field including Venus Williams in her first tournament of the season.

TA’s two WTA tournaments in week-two of the season, Sydney and Hobart, and Melbourne’s Kooyong Classic, also starting on January 7, are the 23-time Grand Slam champion’s opportunities to gain additional match practice on top of her Abu Dhabi exhibition.

Sydney and the Brisbane International, which has 11 of the top 20 women with US Open champion Sloane Stephens’s withdrawal, would both be stern tests of Williams’s game after playing no tournaments since her 2017 Australian Open triumph.

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tennis | news.com.au — Australia’s #1 news site

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