Rocket rather rule UK than the jungle
Andy Murray is using his protected ranking of world number two to gain entry to next month’s Australian Open.
The 31-year-old Scot has played six events since returning from hip surgery in June.
The three-time Grand Slam champion has not played since losing to Fernando Verdasco in the Shenzhen Open in September.
Murray, who is ranked 259th world, can use his protected ranking to gain direct entry in up to nine tournaments.
Last year’s semifinalist Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie are also in the British contingent for the men’s singles.
Serena Williams will return to the Melbourne event for the first time since winning while pregnant in 2017. The American, who reached the Wimbledon and US Open final this year, is bidding to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams.
She is expected to play an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year before heading to Australia to prepare for the event.
Williams’ final match last season was her US Open final defeat by Naomi Osaka, a match that was overshadowed by her row with umpire Carlos Ramos and subsequent complaints of sexism.
A cartoon about the incident published in Australia’s Herald Sun was branded racist but defended by the newspaper.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley expects Williams to receive a warm welcome.
He said: “The Australian fans are very sophisticated fans and we hope they have a great approach to welcoming this great champion. “This is a new start. “She’s going to come in as the player who is trying to break the alltime grand slam record.
“I think the Australian fans will appreciate the success she’s had as an athlete.”
Britain’s Katie Boulter is making her debut in the main draw of the women’s singles.
She will be joined by Johanna Konta and Heather Watson.
The Australian Open takes place from January 14 to 27.
SHORT ON GAME-TIME: Andy Murray has not played since losing in September