Britain’s Emma Raducanu will make her comeback to the tennis tour in Auckland in the first week of January.
The 2021 US Open champion has been out of action since April and has fallen to 296 in the world rankings following three operations.
She has been awarded a wildcard into the ASB Classic, with US Open champion Coco Gauff and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki also in the line-up.
The women’s tournament at the Auckland Classic takes place from 1-7 January.
The Australian Open – the first Grand Slam of the season – begins on January 14.
Raducanu, 21, was restricted to just nine matches in 2023 and in May had surgery on both of her hands and left ankle, which she injured in Auckland at the start of the year.
The hand pain, caused by a bone very close to her wrists, had been troubling her since the end of the 2022 season.
Having been injured for more than six months, Raducanu is entitled to use a protected ranking of 103 – her ranking at the conclusion of the Madrid Open, which was the last event she entered.
That is currently just too high to earn automatic entry into the Australian Open, and so Raducanu will need to make her way through qualifying – unless a wildcard is offered by Tennis Australia, or about half a dozen players withdraw.
Raducanu had been hoping to play an exhibition event in Macau last weekend but withdrew last month as she was not sure she would be ready.
She still flew to Hong Kong to fulfil some sponsor obligations but is expected to continue her preparations at the National Tennis Centre (NTC) in London later this week.
Raducanu is said to have made good progress training with LTA staff at the NTC over the past eight weeks, but she has still not firmed up the team that will accompany her on tour next year.
If Raducanu does not need to qualify for the Australian Open, then she could take the opportunity to play elsewhere.
There are WTA events in Hobart and Adelaide in the week before the Australian Open, and she could also be tempted by the chance to play exhibition matches at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne.