Andy Murray will return for Australian Open claims tournament director
Andy Murray will take his place in the draw for the Australian Open next January, according to the tournament director.
The five-time runner-up in Melbourne has been out injured since he exited Wimbledon with a hip injury in July having made the decision to take the remainder of the season off for his recovery.
The British number one's future in the sport has even been brought into question as a result of the injury with fans fearing that he may struggle to recapture his form and fitness.
But the Australian Open's tournament director Craig Tiley is adamant that Murray, along with Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori who have also struggled through persistent injuries, will be fit and firing come January for the first Grand Slam of the season.
"I'm very happy to confirm that all the top players will be back in Melbourne in January," Tiley said at the tournament's launch, streamed on Twitter.
"On the men's side, there has been a lot of concern and conjecture around Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori.
Andy Murray of Great Britain talks during a press conference on day nine of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis ChampionshipsGetty Images
"I can tell you that in talking to Andy, he has been training and he is preparing for having a great year in 2018.
" How much would this year have hurt him, to watch over the entire year Roger and Rafa share four grand slam titles - he would not have like that."
"As competitive as Andy is, we know he's back and he'll want to improve his current ranking of number three in the world and getting back to number one."
Meanwhile, Serena Williams also appears set to return to Melbourne Park to defend the title she won in Melbourne while eight weeks pregnant.
Tiley described Serena as having a "special relationship" with the Australian Open, and very much expects the 35-year-old to be ready to go come January.
"Serena, the competitor that she is, she wants to win more than the 23 Grand Slam titles that she has," he said.
" We have a special relationship with Serena, the Williams family, both her and Venus. She wants to come back in 2018 and defend her title. Obviously, at training now, there is several months to go and it will be up to her as far as where she is with her fitness."
Tiley's announcement comes a month after Serena's coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, exclusively told Eurosport at the US Open that she was targeting her return for being in time for Melbourne.
Additionally, Tiley confirmed the prize money for next year's tournament will rise by 10 per cent to 55 million Australian dollars (£32.5 million), with the men and women's champions earning 4 million Australian dollars (£2.3 million).
Murray limped through to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, where he eventually lost to Sam Querrey, at Wimbledon, having picked up the hip problem at the French Open. He was expected to return for the final Grand Slam of the year in New York in August but dramatically pulled out just 48 hours before the start of the tournament, bringing his season to an abrupt end. The break could have been just what Murray needed ahead of a resurgent 2018 - or so his fans hope, at least.
Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka and Nishikori all returning for Melbourne represents a mouthwatering prospect, particularly given that many top stars are likely to have unusually low seedings. With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both back at the top of their games following incredible 2017 campaigns, this coming season could see a significant return from Murray, Djokovic and Wawrinka if their bodies hold up. The Australian Open is still the tournament that has always got away from Murray and he will be desperate to win a tournament he's finished as a runner-up at on five separate occasions.