Melbourne | AO23 and United Cup fields announced
The entry list for the first Major of 2023, the Australian Open, is published with no surprises in the high quality women’s field led by World No 1 Iga Swiatek that includes a dozen former Grand Slam champions in the running.
After lifting the French Open trophy in Paris for the second time and then capturing the US Open in New York this year, Swiatek is the favourite to add the AO title to her already highly impressive portfolio.
The 21-year old will warm-up for her run at the title by competing for Poland in the inaugural United Cup in Brisbane.
Missing in Melbourne, though, will be the defending champion Ash Barty, who created such excitement last January when she reached the final losing just one service game, and then defeated Danielle Collins to become the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neil in 1978 to win the Australian Open.
Barty then dropped a bombshell by retiring from the tour in March, passing on her mantel to Swiatek who, at 21, is proving a worthy successor as the World No 1.
In the field will be 3 former Australian Open women’s singles champions – two-time winners Victoria Azarenka (2012-13) and Naomi Osaka (2019, 2021) as well as Sofia Kenin (2020).
Kenin heads a group of 11 players using protected rankings to enter the Grand Slam alongside Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Marketa Vondrousova, Karolina Muchova, Nadia Podoroska, Laura Siegemund, Jaqueline Cristian, Patricia Maria Tig, Evgeniya Rodina, Zheng Saisai and Kristina Kucova.
Azarenka was the last women to successfully defend her Australian Open title, winning back to back championships in 2012 and 2013.
Ash Barty, who retired from the tour in March, will not be defending her title in Melbourne but has promised to make an appearance
© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Petra Kvitova, Garbiñe Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Barbora Krejcikova, Elena Rybakina, Sloane Stephens, Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu all have Grand Slam titles to their names and relish the big stage.
Of the WTA Rankings Top 20 players only Simona Halep will be absent as she appeals her suspension by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) following a positive doping test at the US Open in August.
Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula and Caroline Garcia are all set to be strong contenders in an exciting women’s singles field for the first major of 2023, while No 95-ranked Ysaline Bonaventure rounds out the group of players granted direct entry.
Should there be any further withdrawals the players lined up for entry are Harriet Dart, Kateryna Baindl, Dayana Yastremska, Alycia Parks and Margarita Betova.
Raducanu is the only British woman to enjoy main draw entry status at this stage, although only one withdrawal gives Dart a place in the main draw.
To view the full entry lists for both the women and the men’s field, click HERE.
Australia has dropped all its travel restrictions over vaccination requirements, and no players of any nationalities are expected to be barred from entry in any way.
18 nations will compete for the inaugural United Cup in Australia from 29 December [unitedcup.com]
The WTA season kicks off with the jointly staged United Cup mixed team event, which will be played in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney from Thursday 29 December.
The United Cup is an ATP-WTA event presented in partnership with Tennis Australia, and offers USD $15 million in prize money as well as up to 500 Pepperstone ATP and 500 WTA rankings points.
An all-star line-up of past and current champions on court and to captain the teams is promised at the inaugural United Cup.
In Brisbane, 2012 Wimbledon finalist and former World No 2 Agnieszka Radwanska will captain Team Poland in Group B, led by Swiatek and men’s World No 10 Hubert Hurkacz.
In Perth, former World No 1 doubles player and Australian Open 2011 doubles champion Gisela Dulko will lead Team Argentina, who are drawn against Croatia and France in Group F.
Former World No 4 and Roland Garros champion Iva Majoli will captain Croatia, with players Borna Coric and Donna Vekic to fly the flag for their country.
In Sydney, Tim Henman, who inspired a British tennis revival in the 1990s by becoming the first local player to reach the men’s semi-finals at Wimbledon in 25 years, will captain Team Great Britain, which includes World No 14 Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans and Harriet Dart.
Former World No 3 doubles and 2016 French Open doubles champion Marc Lopez will oversee Spain, a team featuring World No 2 Rafael Nadal and World No 14 Paula Badosa.
Home favourites Australia will also be in Sydney, and will be captained by former World No 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt and former World No 4 and multiple Grand Slam champion Sam Stosur in Group D.
Stosur is one of several high-profile ‘playing captains’ to feature at the United Cup.
Others include Stan Wawrinka as captain of Team Switzerland, and Alexander Bublik overseeing Kazakhstan in the same group in Brisbane.
Current World No 28 Grigor Dimitrov will captain Bulgaria while Kirsten Flipkens will captain Belgium and Grand Slam doubles champion Edouard Roger-Vasselin will captain France.
For the full list of competing nations, players and captains, click HERE.
The Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, RAC Arena in Perth and Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney will host the United Cup group stage from Thursday 29 December to Wednesday 4 January 2023.
Each host city will feature 2 groups of 3 countries, competing in a round-robin format.
Each tie will comprise two men’s and two women’s singles matches and one mixed doubles match to be played across two days.
Group winners in each city will play off for one of three semi-final spots.
Three City Champions will advance to the United Cup Final Four in Sydney to be played at Ken Rosewall Arena from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 January, while the next best performing team from the group stage will complete the quartet.
The Australian Open season gets into full swing with the WTA 500 Adelaide International 1 from 3 January.
On 16 January 2023 the main draw of the Australian Open will get underway and, if everything goes to plan, a new women’s champion will be crowned on 28 January.