Sabalenka, Rybakina to open new season in Brisbane

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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, organisers said on Tuesday.

Former world number one Naomi Osaka was already announced for the WTA 500 event, which is returning in the first week of January after a three-year hiatus forced initially by the COVID pandemic.

Sabalenka is ineligible to compete in the United Cup mixed tournament taking place in Perth and Sydney the same week because of the continuing ban on teams from Belarus and Russia stemming from the invasion of Ukraine.

The 25-year-old will join her fellow Belarusian and twice Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the 48-player Brisbane field as she prepares for her first Grand Slam title defence at Melbourne Park.

"Australia holds a special place in my heart after winning my first Grand Slam there," Sabalenka said in a news release.

"I can't wait to make my debut at the Brisbane International and play in front of the Queensland tennis fans."

Russian-born Kazakh Rybakina, the Wimbledon champion in 2022, lost to Sabalenka in this year's Melbourne final.

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