Seventeen-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer (SUI) and five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova (RUS) will return to Queensland this summer to defend their Brisbane International titles.
The pair will be joined by fellow tennis superstars Kei Nishikori (JPN) and Samantha Stosur (Qld) at Brisbane International 2016 presented by Suncorp, set to get under way at Queensland Tennis Centre on Sunday 3 January.
Federer will return to Brisbane for a third consecutive year. In 2014 he finished runner-up to local favourite Lleyton Hewitt (SA) before going one better in 2015, clinching his first Roy Emerson Trophy and 1000th match win in a three-set thriller against Milos Raonic (CAN).
The world No.2 said he was looking forward to returning to the scene of his 2015 triumph.
“I’m excited, especially after this year with the win and the 1000th match win, it was like a picture perfect moment,” Federer said.
“I’m coming back maybe with a little bit more pressure next year having to defend [the title], but I’ve played there two years now and it’s gone so well.”
Federer became just the third man in history to record at least 1000 match wins in January this year, joining Ivan Lendl (USA) and Jimmy Connors (USA) on the elite list. His career win-loss record now stands at 1041-234.
“It was very special, the 1000 matches all of a sudden it was right there, it snuck up on me a little bit,” the Swiss champion said.
“I did hear about it going into the tournament and I knew that it could happen in the final. It was like a perfect scenario and 1000, it really echoed around the tennis world.”
Federer has embraced the Sunshine State in recent years, taking time away from tennis to explore local sights including Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Tangalooma Island Resort.
“It’s a really nice week for us as a family… we really enjoy all of us being there. Brisbane I really like as a city, the fans have been unbelievable there, the stadium is beautiful. There’s so many things to like about it.”
Challenging Federer for the 2016 title will be world No.4 Kei Nishikori. The three-time Brisbane International semi-finalist will return to Queensland Tennis Centre intent on securing his first men’s final appearance.
“I hope I can reach the final some day. I always play good at that tournament, it’s a great tournament to start the year and I always enjoy that first week,” he said.
“Last year I lost to Milos Raonic but not by much, we both played well and it was a great match. It’s never easy the first match of the year but I always play good and I always enjoy it.
“It’s good to have a lot of great players in the tournament, I hope I can beat them but it’s a good goal for me to have. Roger is one of the greatest players so I will enjoy next year, too.”
World No.3 Maria Sharapova will lead a world class women’s field vying for the 2016 Evonne Goolagong Trophy. The Russian ace defeated Ana Ivanovic (SRB) to add a 35th career title to her name on Pat Rafter Arena in January.
“It was a very special event for me, I started playing [this tournament] quite late in my career and when you come to a new tournament having travelled around the world it’s always a unique experience,” she said.
“I was always hoping and envisioning myself winning that trophy so for it to happen quite soon was really special to me.”
Sharapova said Brisbane’s world class facilities and bumper crowds fuelled her decision to return.
“Everything around [the tournament] is great; the conditions are great, it’s quite warm, we want to be able to practice and to play matches in the toughest conditions.
“The courts are great, the Tournament Director does an incredible job of making all the players feel like they’re home and it’s just a nice and special way to start off the year.
“As an athlete it’s extremely special to play in front of a full crowd from the opening day and that tells you a lot about their expectations, they’re waiting during the year for all the top athletes to go there and to compete in front of them and it makes us play better, that’s for sure.”
Sharapova will be joined in the women’s field by hometown favourite and Australian No.1 Samantha Stosur.
“I’m really excited to return to Brisbane in 2016, it’s my home tournament and my home crowd and I’m looking forward to starting the year on a good note. It’s always an incredibly strong field and I’m sure this summer will be no different,” said the world No.22.
“I grew up not too far from Queensland Tennis Centre and have lots of great memories on these courts. The crowds in Brisbane have been unbelievable in the past couple of years and hopefully tennis fans are looking forward to another great event this summer.”
Brisbane International Tournament Director Cameron Pearson, in New York ahead of next week’s US Open, said fans could look forward to another world class event.
“Brisbane International has fast become one of the best-loved events on the world tennis calendar for both players and fans,” Pearson said.
“This summer will see another fantastic tournament, with four of the world’s top players already committed to the line-up. We’re delighted to welcome back our defending champions Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, as well as Kei Nishikori and Brisbane’s own Samantha Stosur.
“Fans have really embraced the event, with record crowds in attendance for the past two years. We expect another strong crowd in 2016 and encourage all fans to buy their tickets early to ensure they don’t miss out.”
Minister for Tourism and Major Events Kate Jones said it was fantastic to have Federer and Sharapova returning to Brisbane to defend their titles.
“Brisbane International is a highlight on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar, attracting a total attendance of around 100,000 earlier this year,” Minister Jones said.
“The Palaszczuk Government is proud to support Brisbane International 2016 through Tourism and Events Queensland because events such as this promote Queensland’s destinations, drive visitation, create jobs and foster community pride.”
Brisbane International 2016, presented by Suncorp and supported by Tourism and Events Queensland, will be held at Queensland Tennis Centre from 3 to 10 January. The tournament is part of the Emirates Australian Open Series, which also incorporates Hopman Cup (Perth), Apia International Sydney, Hobart International and World Tennis Challenge (Adelaide).
Member and group tickets are on sale now through Ticketek. Multi-session tickets will be on sale to the general public on Wednesday 7 October; single-session tickets will be on sale to the general public on Wednesday 14 October.
Tickets are on sale through Ticketek.
For all tournament information please visit brisbaneinternational.com.au.