Barty‘s quest to break Aus Open barrier
QUEENSLAND'S Ash Barty will start her summer tennis circuit away from her home state tournament, choosing instead to play Perth's Hopman Cup.
The announcement that Barty and Australian No.4 Matt Ebden will be Australia's two-member team at the Hopman Cup, from December 30, means it is now likely that Nick Kyrgios will bid to defend his Brisbane International men's title in that week.
The alternative for Kyrgios and Australia's other four top-50 men and women would be to start their season overseas or sit out the first week of the Australian circuit.
Serena Williams has also chosen the Hopman Cup for her Australian Open pipe-opener, joining 20-time Grand Slam title winner Roger Federer as the best possible headliners for Perth.
World No.19 Barty professed a warm regard for the Brisbane International, near her Ipswich home, as recently as her visit home last month.
But her best finish at an Australian Open is the third round and the 22-year-old is willing to try the Perth exhibition, in which she would get a guaranteed three round-robin singles matches and three mixed-doubles matches, as a launch pad.
"Perth Arena is phenomenal. It's one of my favourite courts around Australia,'' Barty said.
"The fans are passionate and I think it's the perfect preparation leading into the Australian Open.''
Barty lost in the first round in Brisbane last summer, before making the final in Sydney the following week. She has not made a quarter-final at the Queensland Tennis Centre in three main-draw forays there.
Williams is a two-time Brisbane International champion but has come to prefer the less stressful Hopman Cup, at which she resorted to a mid-match slug of coffee in 2017.
Australia's three highest-ranked men, Kyrgios (No.27), John Millman (35) and Alex de Minaur (37), are all now likely to play in Brisbane, with Millman already having declared his entry last month.
World No.1 Rafael Nadal, former top-ranked Andy Murray and world No.12 Kei Nishikori head the Brisbane men's entries so far, with Japan's US Open champion Naomi Osaka the first of the women's stars announced.