Ashleigh Barty joins Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic at star-studded exhibition in Adelaide

World No 1 returns to action for one-day event on January 29 ahead of Australian Open

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Ashleigh Barty will make her first top-level tennis appearance in nearly a year when she takes part in a star-studded exhibition event in Adelaide at the end of the month.

World No 1 Barty, who has remained top of the rankings despite not playing since last February, joins a field which also includes Grand Slam-winners Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep.

Men's Grand Slam champions Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will also play the one-day event on January 29. The delayed Australian Open is due to begin on February 8.

It will be Barty's first match since her semi-final loss to Petra Kvitova at the Qatar Open last February. The 24-year-old opted not to defend her French Open title and skipped the US Open in New York amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Adelaide event, dubbed "A Day at the Drive", will launch Australia's summer of tennis and take place at the city's Memorial Drive Tennis Centre.

"I am looking forward to playing my first match for the 2021 season in Adelaide," said the Queenslander, who won a WTA event in Adelaide last year.

"I have fond memories from the Adelaide International last year and it will be great to get back on court here for A Day at the Drive."

The star players and support staff in Adelaide arrived on a charter flight last week and so far there haven't been any positive Covid-19 tests among them, allowing them unencumbered practice sessions during their 14-day quarantine.

That's unlike the players who arrived into Melbourne on other charters. There have been confirmed positive Covid-19 cases from charter flights originating in Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Los Angeles.

That has forced 72 players from those three flights into hard quarantine without an opportunity to leave their hotel rooms to practice.

Tennis Australia Chief Executive Craig Tiley said earlier in the week that the top players were sent to Adelaide to ensure organisers did not exceed the limit set by the authorities for people quarantining in Melbourne.

The presence of tennis's top players in Adelaide has rankled with some of their rivals, as they were allowed to do their 14-day mandatory coronavirus quarantine in more luxurious conditions.

Tiley did not disagree. He said: "They're the top players in the world and my general rule is if you're at the top of the game, a grand slam champion, it's just the nature of the business," he said. "You are going to get a better deal."

Russia's Yulia Putintseva, the world No 28, swapped rooms at their hotel in Melbourne after finding a mouse but said her new room was also infested.

Victoria state police minister Lisa Neville "encouraged" players to "minimise interaction" with the mice.