Organisers close in on Djokovic,Williams for Brisbane
THE Brisbane International is at match point in bids to bring Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, winners of 35 Grand Slam titles between them, back to Queensland this summer.
Tennis industry sources say Djokovic is strongly considering playing the Brisbane event, which starts on December 31, and ending a nine-year absence from the Queensland Tennis Centre.
The Courier-Mail reported on October 4 that Djokovic, winner of 12 Grand Slam titles, had decided to play in Australia only before the Australian Open and was in talks with the Brisbane international about playing it.
The Serbian has played the ATP Doha tournament in each of the past three years, but the bigger appearance fee budget of organisers there will not see him play there.
Brisbane tournament director Geoff Quinlan declined to comment on the progress of talks with representatives of Djokovic, who has not played a tournament since July to allow an elbow injury to fully heal.
Djokovic would provide a third of the "Big Four'' of men's tennis should he play an event which has already secured world No.1 Rafael Nadal and third-ranked Andy Murray.
"We'll have some more Grand Slam champions to announce in the coming weeks - it will be a great tournament,'' Quinlan said.
Williams last played in Brisbane in 2014 and was announced by the Australian Open on Tuesday as an expected entrant at a time her daughter Alexis Olympia would be only three months old.
"We'd love to have Serena here and the door is wide open,'' Quinlan said.
"We'll see how she goes in the time ahead.''
If Brisbane is the first WTA event for 23-time major winner Williams, it would grab the attention of worldwide media, including American organisations who are otherwise transfixed by NFL play-offs, not a tennis mum on the comeback trial.
"It would be amazing, there's no denying that,'' Quinlan said.
As dominant as Williams has been in winning 10 of her past 19 Grand Slam events, the 36-year-old would need a warm-up tournament.
Her remaining options in week one of the season are the two smaller WTA events, in Auckland, of which she is no fan, or Shenzhen, China.
"She's a genuine champion and will come back when she is ready - I'm sure she'd be dangerous once more,'' Australian No.2 Ash Barty said.
"If she comes back, hopefully she's happy and healthy and that's the most important thing.
"Brisbane is an amazing event and everyone enjoys starting the year here. It's good preparation for the Australian Open. There are great facilities. The weather is great.''
In addition to Djokovic, there are fitness clouds to be removed before arrivals in Brisbane by Murray (hip), 2017 runner-up Kei Nishkori (knee) and Milos Raonic (wrist).