Melbourne, 15 December 2011 |

The superstars of tennis are heading to Australian Open 2012, with 99 of the world’s top 100 men and women all confirmed for the year’s first Grand Slam event.

Novak Djokovic will be determined to defend his title and maintain his world No.1 position, while Roger Federer’s year-end win in London sees him eyeing off a sixth Australian Open title and the honour of becoming the tournament’s 100th men’s singles champion.

Rafael Nadal will put his disappointing 2011 season behind him and Andy Murray, twice a finalist in Melbourne, is desperate for a Grand Slam breakthrough.

Australia’s own US Open champion Sam Stosur leads a new generation of Grand Slam winners in contention for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, and French Open winner Li Na will be joined by defending champion Kim Clijsters and five-time AO winner Serena Williams, both returning from injury.

World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki is still in the hunt for her maiden Grand Slam, while former champion Maria Sharapova is showing all the signs of returning to winning form.

Only world No.13 Robin Soderling and No.69 Alisa Kleybanova, both currently battling illness, are missing from the ranks.

The 104 direct acceptances into the men’s draw include Tommy Haas, Fernando Gonzalez, Benjamin Becker and Paul-Henri Mathieu, all of whom used their injury protected rankings.

The women’s draw includes 108 direct acceptances, with Timea Bacsinszky and Anna Chakvetadze both using protected rankings as they return from injury. Venus Williams, currently ranked 105, has also made the cut. Williams hasn’t played since withdrawing from her second-round US Open match after being diagnosed with autoimmune disease Sjögren’s Syndrome.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said he was thrilled with the line-up.

“It’s incredible to once again have every available top player in both the men’s and women’s fields heading to play the Australian Open.

“These superstars of world sport love coming to Melbourne. They love the Australian Open and the fans, the city, the facilities at Melbourne Park and the way we look after them while they are here.

“They in turn will provide an unbelievable couple of weeks of drama, excitement and entertainment for all of us lucky enough to attend the event or follow it on TV or online. We are in for some incredible tennis in January. I can’t wait!”

The men’s field will be completed by 16 qualifiers and eight wildcards, while the women’s field has 12 qualifiers and eight wildcards to be added.