Aryna Sabalenka Gears Up for Australian Open Defence with Brisbane Warm-up

Aryna Sabalenka. (AP Photo)

World number two Aryna Sabalenka and number four Elena Rybakina will open their 2024 seasons at the Brisbane International warm-up for the Australian Open

Aryna Sabalenka will launch preparations for the defence of her Australian Open crown by playing at the Brisbane International, organisers said on Tuesday.

Elena Rybakina — beaten by Sabalenka in the final in Melbourne at the start of this year — will also play at the December 31-January 7 Brisbane event.

“I’m excited about starting my 2024 Australian season in Brisbane,” world number two Sabalenka said in a statement released by organisers.

“Australia holds a special place in my heart after winning my first Grand Slam there.”

Tournament director Cam Pearson said he was looking forward to welcoming the Belarusian Sabalenka and Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, who is fourth in the world.

“We all remember the exciting Australian Open final the girls played at the start of the year,” he told a news conference.

“That has really kicked off what is a pretty exciting rivalry between the two players.”

On the men’s side, fast-rising world number 17 Ben Shelton of the United States will join a draw that also includes three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray.

Pearson said he would welcome Australian Nick Kyrgios to the tournament if he recovers from injury in time.

“We would love to have him here, he’s a past champion and a fan favourite but he needs to do what’s best for him and his recovery,” he said.

“If that means he’s playing in January, fantastic.”

Kyrgios had knee surgery in January and then aborted comeback plans at Wimbledon after tearing a ligament in his wrist.