Victoria Azarenka joins top women tennis stars


Victoria Azarenka will begin her campaign to defend her Australian Open title in the city where her meteoric rise up the world rankings began – Brisbane. Azarenka, the world No.1, headlines a stunning array of tennis stars bound for the 2013 Brisbane International, which has attracted eight of the world’s top 10 women.
Tournament organisers could hardly have dreamed of a stronger field.
Azarenka will this morning be announced alongside Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and local hero Samantha Stosur in the field for the event starting at the Queensland Tennis Centre on December 30.
With the women’s prizemoney soaring from $655,000 in 2012 to $1 million, the Belarussian had plenty of reasons to head for Brisbane.
But the magnetism of an event that provided her maiden WTA singles success to launch her towards the world’s top 10 also was a factor.
“I am really looking forward to returning to Brisbane. The city is beautiful, the venue is first class and I thoroughly enjoyed playing there in 2009 when I won the inaugural title,” Azarenka, 23, said.
“I am excited to start my 2013 campaign in Brisbane. I know I will get some tough matches against the world’s best there, which is perfect preparation leading into the Australian Open.”
She will face the most talented women’s field in the tournament’s five-year history, with China’s Li Na and Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska the only top 10 players not bound for Queensland in the first week of January.
For Azarenka, the assembly of stars sets up the possibility of a mouth-watering showdown with Australian Open runner-up Sharapova, or a duel with Williams, who downed her in their US Open final and a Wimbledon semi-final.
The addition of Germany’s world No.5 Angelique Kerber, Italian Sara Errani (No.6), 2011 Brisbane champion Petra Kvitova (No.8), Stosur (No.9) and former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki (No.10) rounds out the dazzling list of likely seeds.
Tournament director Cameron Pearson said the three-way battle between the world’s top three players could set the stage for the season.
The men’s field is headed so far by Scotland’s US Open champion Andy Murray and Australian Lleyton Hewitt.