It’s been a longer off-season than normal for tennis players with the start of the calendar delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For some players the Australian Open warm-up events will be the first time they have played competitively in nearly a year.
So which players are we looking forward to seeing back on the courts soon?
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Nick Kyrgios

“Djokovic is a tool.”
After a quiet few months, Nick Kyrgios announced his return in trademark style by dropping a social media bomb on the world No 1, who has come under fire for his quarantine requests to Tennis Australia.
Kyrgios was one of the stars of the Australian summer last year as he dazzled at the ATP Cup and won plenty more fans with his fundraising efforts for the bushfires in his home country.
But he hasn’t been seen on court since being booed off court at the Acapulco Open in late February.
He says he took time off to “completely reset” and also opened up about battling depression and being in a “lonely, dark place”.
If Kyrgios is refreshed and raring to go then he will definitely be one to watch in Melbourne, especially if he gets a match against Djokovic.

Bianca Andreescu

The Canadian missed the entire 2020 season as she was recovering from a knee injury.
Her last competitive match was at the WTA Finals in October 2019, a few months after she won her maiden Grand Slam in New York.
Still ranked at No 8 in the world, the 20-year-old showed plenty of positive signs in 2019 as she won Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup before her success at the US Open.
Her return should be a great addition to the top of the women’s game, even if her Australian Open plans were hampered after her coach Sylvain Bruneau tested positive for Covid-19, meaning a two-week hotel room quarantine.

Ashleigh Barty

It’s been nearly a year since the women’s world No 1 last played a competitive match.
Barty enjoyed her best performance at the Australian Open in 2020, losing in the semi-finals to eventual champion Sofia Kenin.
She then also made the last four in Doha in February before calling time on her season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Australia's Ashleigh Barty reacts after a point against Alison Riske of the US during their women's singles match on day seven of the Australian Open tennis tournament

Image credit: Getty Images

Ahead of her return she has been reacquainting herself with Melbourne Park and practised on Rod Laver Arena before the rest of the tennis world descended on the city. She also thinks she has made some improvements to her game during her break.
“The extended time at home has given me an opportunity to work on a few areas of my game,” she told tennis.com in December. “I’ve switched to Natural Gut which took some time to adjust to, but I’m feeling comfortable now and getting some extra power and feel.
“I also had time to do a strength block with my trainer Mark Taylor, which has given me a good fitness base leading into the Aussie summer.”

Andy Murray

This one comes with an asterisk as Murray may not able to play at the Australian Open after testing positive for Covid-19.
However, it would be great to see Murray back in Melbourne, having missed the tournament twice in the last three years.
The 33-year-old was active during the 2020 season, but only managed a handful of matches due to a combination of form, fitness and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Top shots from 2020 Australian Open

The hope is that he will be on court more this year.
He showed some encouraging signs at the Battle of the Brits earlier this month as he beat British No 1 Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie, and he sounds determined to improve this year.
“I may never get back to being number one in the world but I want to do everything that I did when I was number one in the world to give myself the best chance to see what I can achieve.”

Juan Martin del Potro

It’s been 18 months since Del Potro last played a competitive match, with his injury-hit career suffering another setback as he underwent a third knee surgery last summer.
When he will return is not yet clear - there have been reports it could be at the ATP Cup at the start of February - but there’s no doubt that the ATP Tour is a better place with Del Potro on it.

Juan Martín del Potro

Image credit: Getty Images

Still only 32, his huge forehand is one of the most devastating shots on tour and he is able to mix it with the very best in the world.
Does he have another Grand Slam run in him? Maybe not. But it would be great to see him back healthy and playing again in 2021.

Naomi Osaka

Osaka’s last competitive match was a memorable one as she won the US Open to secure her third Grand Slam title. She didn’t play again in 2020 but has some big targets this year.
There’s the Olympics in her home country of Japan along with adding to her Grand Slam collection – she will surely be keen to atone for her third-round exit at last year’s Australian Open – and reclaiming the world No 1 ranking.
She says she is motivated by making history.
“For me, I just feel like I like to try to break history, or make history,” Osaka told the Nikkei Asian Review.
When someone says to me, ‘No one has done this before,’ that immediately becomes my goal.
Osaka has been preparing for the Australian Open in Adelaide and will play at the one-day event ‘A Day at the Drive’ before heading to Melbourne.
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