World no. 1 Ash Barty is set to return to the tennis court at the one-day exhibition event in Adelaide next week, for something other than practice for the first time in 11 months.
The Australian tennis player hasn’t played in 11 months, and has confirmed on Thursday to join the event called “A Day at the Drive” on Jan. 29 that will be held at the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre alongside Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep, ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne on February 8.
The exhibition will also feature four of the top men’s players, with the field playing two singles matches in afternoon and evening sessions. The men’s lineup includes Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.
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Barty, who won the 2019 French Open title and reached the Australian Open semifinals last year, hasn’t played a competitive match since she was a semifinalist at the Qatar Open in February. Barty didn’t play last year’s U.S. Open and the French Open because of the threat of COVID-19 and overseas travel restrictions for Australian citizens.
Following Adelaide, Barty plans to play in the WTA 500 tournament at Melbourne Park in the week leading up to the Australian Open beginning Feb. 8.
The star players and support staff in Adelaide arrived on a charter flight last week and so far there haven’t been any positive COVID-19 tests among them, allowing them unencumbered practice sessions during their 14-day quarantine.
That’s unlike the players who arrived into Melbourne on other charters. There have been confirmed positive COVID-19 cases from charter flights originating in Doha, Qatar; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Los Angeles.
That has forced 72 players from those three flights into hard quarantine without an opportunity to leave their hotel rooms to practice.