Andy Murray and Serena Williams are set to compete at the opening Grand Slam of next year, the Australian Open.
The British No1 looks certain to miss the remainder of the season with a hip problem while Williams gave birth to her daughter, Alexis, last month and has not played since winning the title in Melbourne nine months ago.
But today tournament director Craig Tiley said both players would be lining up for the event in January, with the Australian Open also acting as a big-tournament return from lengthy injury lay-offs for Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.
Murray announced last month he was taking a lengthy break from the game without officially ruling himself out for the rest of 2017.
But Tiley said he was confident the former world No1 would be fit and firing come the start of 2018.
“I can tell you that in talking to Andy, he has been training and he is preparing for having a great year in 2018,” said Tiley. “How much would this year have hurt him to watch over the entire year Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal share four Grand Slam titles? He would not have liked that.
“As competitive as Andy is, we know he’s back and he’ll want to improve his current ranking of No3 in the world and getting back to No1.”
There has been conjecture about Williams’ return to the game after becoming a mother but she said her choice of name, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, for her daughter was a nod to the Australian Open, a tournament she has won seven times. The American explained that the child’s initials, AO, were chosen as they were the same as the event.
She has since told tournament organisers she expects to defend the title she won while eight weeks’ pregnant.
Tiley said: “Serena, the competitor that she is, wants to win more than the 23 Grand Slam titles that she has.
“We have a special relationship with Serena, the Williams family, both her and Venus. She wants to come back in 2018 and defend her title. Obviously, at training now, there are several months to go and it will be up to her as far as where she is with her fitness.”
Tiley is confident of having all the top players back in the men’s draw, the ATP Tour’s leading names having been curtailed by injury for much of 2017.
He added: “I’m very happy to confirm that all the top players will be back in Melbourne in January.”
The prize pot for the event has risen by 10 per cent to £32.5million, with the winner of both the men’s and women’s singles pocketing £2.3m each.