Former US Open champion Emma Raducanu will make her long-awaited comeback from injury at the ASB Classic in Auckland as she tries to earn a spot at the Australian Open.
The 21-year-old Brit has not played a match since a heavy loss to Jelena Ostapenko in Stuttgart in April.
She subsequently withdrew from the Madrid Open and opted to undergo surgery on both wrists and an ankle, going on to miss the rest of the 2023 season.
Until recently there were doubts over whether the high-profile Raducanu would make the start of next year but those have eased in recent weeks as she has stepped up her training.
And it has now been announced she will play at the WTA tournament in New Zealand's biggest city beginning on January 1.
It will be Raducanu's second appearance in Auckland and she will hope it is more positive than her debut in January this year, when she suffered an ankle injury during her second-round match and retired in tears.
Raducanu, a shock winner of the 2021 US Open, was able to recover to compete at the Australian Open before undergoing a procedure on her ankle to repair the damage.
She afterwards criticised the "slippery" courts at Melbourne Park, but is anxiously seeking a return - which will have to come via a wildcard.
Raducanu's ranking has slipped to 296 and she faces a long road back to the top of the game.
She can use a protected ranking of 103 to enter tournaments because of her long lay-off but that is currently not high enough to earn her a place in the main draw of the Australian Open.
Barring enough withdrawals of higher-ranked players, or a wildcard, she will have to go through qualifying at a slam for the first time since her stunning title run in New York in 2021.
Reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff, former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and Wimbledon semi-finalist Elina Svitolina are among the other names confirmed for the Auckland tournament.
Australian Associated Press