World No 1 Ash Barty has decided to defend her Adelaide International title next week, and has accepted a late wild card to enter the event, which she originally planned to miss.
I am looking forward to coming back to Adelaide and having the opportunity to defend my title. I feel grateful to get another week playing in front of Australian fans. Ash Barty
Barty had been planning to head to the Middle East after a short break following a gruelling schedule of 10 matches in less than 3 weeks, but the 24-year-old’s camp confirmed on Friday that she will be back on the court for the $US535,000 event starting on Sunday.
She will be the top seed in Adelaide, where 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek, former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and AO finalist Jennifer Brady are also playing.
The Australian snared her 8th career title in Adelaide last year before going on to reach the last 4 at the 2020 Australian Open.
The decision to play Adelaide followed her shock AO loss in the quarter-finals at the hands of Karolína Muchová in 3 sets on Wednesday.
In a statement on the tournament’s website, Barty said: “I am looking forward to coming back to Adelaide and having the opportunity to defend my title. I feel grateful to get another week playing in front of Australian fans.”
Barty recently participated in Adelaide in the ‘Day at the Drive’ exhibition event at the Memorial Drive tennis complex.
South Australia reopened its border to regional Victoria during the week, but still has restrictions on arrivals from Greater Melbourne but Barty is among more than 300 players and support crew who have been granted exemptions, allowing them to take part in the tournament.
“Players have been tested so much and they’ve been in lockdown for five days as well … so we’re comfortable, certainly, with the discussions we’ve had with SA Health in regards to delivering this event,” Tournament Director Alistair MacDonald said earlier in the week.
SA Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Emily Kirkpatrick, said restrictions would still apply.
“Allowing them to walk across to the training area — they’ll need to be wearing a mask when they’re undertaking that as well, and making sure they have no contact with the public,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
MacDonald said he was ‘thrilled to welcome’ Barty back to Memorial Drive.
“Ash brings so much energy to the court and that is felt by every person who has the privilege of watching her in the stands,” he said.
The current entry list for the second edition of the Adelaide International also includes the World’s No 12 and 14, Belinda Bencic and Johanna Konta, who pulled out of the Phillip Island Trophy last week due to an abdominal injury.
In addition to Barty, 3 more Australians receive main draw singles wild cards – Ajla Tomljanovic, Sam Stosur and Olivia Gadecki.
Tomljanovic enters the tournament in impressive form having stretched World No 2 Simona Halep in a two-and-a-half hour AO second round match.
Stosur, a former World No 4 and 2011 US Open champion, travels to Adelaide after competing in the AO mixed doubles final on Saturday evening alongside Matt Ebden.
Eighteen-year-old Gadecki made her WTA main draw debut at last month’s Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne and claimed a career-best win against World No 4 Sofia Kenin at the Melbourne Summer Series.
Meanwhile, Aussies Storm Sanders, Kim Birrell, Ivana Popovic and Belinda Woolcock have been awarded wildcards for the qualifying draw, which starts tomorrow, Sunday, 21 February.
Also competing on Sunday is Britain’s Fran Jones, who takes on Coco Gauff, the No 1 qualifying seed from America, after reaching the semi-finals of the doubles at the Phillip Island Trophy with Argentine Nadia Podoroska and letting 2 match points slip to the eventual winners, Anika Rainer & Kamilla Rakhimova.
Ten Australians will also contest qualifying, with Maddison Inglis (WA), Lizette Cabrera (Qld), Astra Sharma (WA), Ellen Perez (NSW), Arina Rodionova (Vic) and Destanee Aiava (Vic) also in the draw.
The tournament’s singles main draw will be conducted at 1.00pm ACDT on Saturday, while the action starts on Monday and can be viewed in the UK on Amazon Prime Video..