Grand Slam champions, Samantha Stosur (Qld), world No.7 Petra Kvitova (CZE) and world No.8 Sloane Stephens (USA) have joined the reigning US Open champion and world No.4 Naomi Osaka (JPN), to confirm they’ll play at the Brisbane International, as one of the strongest women’s fields takes shape for the 2019 tournament.
The quartet will start the new year at the WTA Premier event in Brisbane from 31 December. For the first time the tournament will stage both the women’s and men’s final in one blockbuster session on Sunday 6 January.
Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion and winner of nine WTA singles titles added another doubles trophy to her cabinet when she combined with Shuai Zhang (CHN) to win the Hong Kong Open last weekend.
“I always love starting my season at the Brisbane International, especially because I can play in front of my family and friends,” Stosur said.
“Pat Rafter Arena is so intimate that I can clearly hear everyone cheering for me, it’s great.”
Kvitova, the 2011 Brisbane International champion and two-time Wimbledon title holder said the Brisbane crowd was a major reason for returning to the Sunshine State.
“I have great memories of playing in Brisbane, particularly in 2011 when I won the event. The fans are always so excited and very supportive of the players,” Kvitova said.
“The tournament is really well run and it’s a great way to the start the new season. It’s a very relaxing atmosphere and I am really looking forward to being back there.”
Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion’s only appearance at the Brisbane International was in 2013 when she pushed the then world No.3 Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Three weeks later Stephens defeated Williams at the Australian Open and made her first Grand Slam semifinal.
They join Osaka who defeated Williams to win her first Grand Slam title at the US Open and become Japan’s first Grand Slam champion.
“I‘m excited about starting my 2019 Australian season in Brisbane. I have been there before and have great memories of the city and playing there,” Osaka said.
“Since winning the US Open, I’ve had lots of messages of support from Australia so it will be special to play at Pat Rafter Arena in January.”
Brisbane International Tournament Director Cameron Pearson said the tournament was looking forward to hosting four Grand Slam champions in Stosur, Kvitova, Stephens and Osaka in Brisbane.
“The field is shaping up nicely once again,” Pearson said.
“We are particularly excited this year to introduce a new schedule which will guarantee more quality matches in the opening days of the tournament, culminating in an incredible afternoon where both the women’s and men’s singles champions will be crowned during the same session on Sunday.”
World No.1 Rafael Nadal (ESP) headlines the men’s draw alongside past champions Nick Kyrgios (ACT), Andy Murray (GBR) and Grigor Dimitrov (BUL). Crowd favourite John Millman (Qld) and Japanese sensation Kei Nishikori (JPN) will also start the new season in Brisbane.
Brisbane City Council Deputy Mayor Adrian Schrinner said securing the four grand slam champions for the women’s draw was testament to the Brisbane International’s popularity both locally and internationally.
“These world champions are a major drawcard for domestic and international tennis fans and will once again showcase our city as a world-class events destination,” Cr Schrinner said.
“Major events including the Brisbane International inject more than $150 million into the city’s economy each year and support thousands of local jobs.”