MELBOURNE • Serena Williams will make her return to the Australian Open for the first time since winning in January last year despite being eight weeks pregnant.
Her participation at the Jan 14-27 Grand Slam was announced by tournament officials yesterday.
Almost all of the world's top 100 men and women's players are also due at Melbourne Park, including Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
Williams returned from giving birth to her daughter to reach this year's Wimbledon and US Open finals, but suffered losses both times to leave her stuck on 23 Slams, one shy of Margaret Court's record.
The 37-year-old's appearance will mark her first Major since her controversial rant at an umpire during her US Open final defeat by Naomi Osaka of Japan.
Former world No. 1 Williams, now ranked 16th, is scheduled to play an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi in the final week of this month before heading to Australia for the Hopman Cup in Perth.
"It's always special to see our defending champions - Caroline (Wozniacki) had her first Grand Slam win here this year, so will be keen to start 2019 on a high," said tournament organiser Craig Tiley.
"Of course, Roger Federer has special memories of Melbourne, having won here six times, something only (world No. 1) Novak (Djokovic) and Roy Emerson have done in the past.
"I've been in touch with Rafa and he's back to full fitness and he can't wait to arrive in Australia."
The Australian Open has obtained permission to follow Wimbledon in introducing a tie-break in the deciding set.
The preference of event chiefs is to play a "super tie-break" at 6-6, in which the winner is the first player to reach 10 points rather than the usual seven.
A final-set tie-break would help to avoid the scheduling chaos that is common at the Australian Open.
With no curfew, delayed matches can often start close to midnight.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON