Hobart TAS 7000, Australia, 29 November 2017 | hobartinternational.com.au

Defending champion Elise Mertens (BEL) will headline a strong field alongside former title winners Alize Cornet (FRA) and Mona Barthel (GER) for the 25th edition of the Hobart International in 2018.

Mertens won the event as a 127th-ranked qualifier earlier this year – and the 22-year-old returns as the world No.36 after a stellar 2017 season.

Injury prevented Frenchwoman Cornet from defending her title in 2017, but the world No.38 returns in 2018. A former world No.11, it will be the 27-year-old’s fourth appearance in Hobart.

Germany’s Barthel, who won her first career title as a qualifier at Hobart International in 2012, is returning for the sixth time. The world No.47 boasts more main draw wins in Hobart than any active player on tour.

Zhang Shuai (CHN) is the highest-ranked player in the field. The world No.35 is set to make her fifth appearance in Hobart, where she was a doubles finalist in 2014. The 28-year-old reached a career-high ranking of No.23 in 2016, her breakout season that saw her reach the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Former world No.21 Sorana Cirstea (ROU), Hobart International 2017 semifinalist Lesia Tsurenko (UKR), recently-crowned WTA Finals doubles champion Timea Babos (HUN) and big-serving Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) will also compete in 2018.

The field also includes some promising young talents in Katerina Siniakova (CZE) and Marketa Vondrousova (CZE), who like Mertens won their first WTA titles during 2017.

“The quality of the Hobart International 2018 field is exciting for us and for the fans,” Hobart International Tournament Director Darren Sturgess said.

“To have some of the world’s best female athletes right in the heart of Tasmania is something we’re very proud to showcase to the local community.

“The Hobart International is the oldest tournament on the WTA calendar that has never had a repeat winner – so it is exciting to have former champions Alize Cornet, Mona Barthel and our most recent winner Elise Mertens returning in 2018. All are popular here in Hobart, so I’m sure they will get plenty of support again as they try to make history.”

The tournament celebrates 25 years in 2018 and is promising a range of new initiatives to make it more fan-friendly than ever. This includes a revamped hospitality offering and free entry for children.

Kids Tennis Day will take place on Saturday 6 January 2018.

“In 2018 we’re really looking forward to making the experience the best yet for families, fans and the players,” Sturgess said.

“We have a range of exciting new initiatives and experiences we hope the Hobart locals and tourists will enjoy and remember.”

Hobart International 2018 full field

Shuai Zhang (CHN) No.35
Elise Mertens (BEL) No.36
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) No.37
Alizé Cornet (FRA) No.38
Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) No.42
Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) No.43
Tatjana Maria (GER) No.46
Mona Barthel (GER) No.47
Katerina Siniakova (CZE) No.48
Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) No.50* (SR)
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) No.51
Donna Vekic (CRO) No.54
Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS) No.55
Timea Babos (HUN) No.56
Shelby Rogers (USA) No.58
Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) No.59
Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) No.62
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) No.63
Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) No.67
Naomi Osaka (JPN) No.68
Alison Riske (USA) No.70

For all tournament information, visit hobartinternational.com.au.