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Top-ranked Ash Barty to make return in Adelaide exhibition

Ash Barty is set to return to the tennis court for something other than practice for the first time in 11 months.

The world No. 1-ranked Barty on Thursday said she'll play in a one-day exhibition event in Adelaide on Jan. 29 which includes Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep.

Called “‘A Day at the Drive," the exhibition at Memorial Drive also features four of the top men’s players, with the field playing two singles matches in afternoon and evening sessions. The men’s lineup includes Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

Austria's Dominic Thiem, right, with an unidentified man, stands on the balcony at his accommodation in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley defended Serbia's Novak Djokovic for appealing to Australian Open organizers to ease restrictions so players could move to private residences with tennis courts. (Morgan SetteAAP Image via AP)

Barty, who won the 2019 French Open title and reached the Australian Open semifinals last year, hasn’t played a competitive match since she was a semifinalist at the Qatar Open in February. Barty didn't play last year’s U.S. Open and the French Open because of the threat of COVID-19 and overseas travel restrictions for Australian citizens.

Following Adelaide, Barty plans to play in the WTA 500 tournament at Melbourne Park in the week leading up to the Australian Open beginning Feb. 8.

The star players and support staff in Adelaide arrived on a charter flight last week and so far there haven't been any positive COVID-19 tests among them, allowing them unencumbered practice sessions during their 14-day quarantine.

Unknown tennis players are escorted to their training session in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021.The number of players in hard quarantine swelled to 72 ahead of the Australian Open after a fifth positive coronavirus test was returned from the charter flights bringing players, coaches, officials and media to Melbourne for the season-opening tennis major. (Luis AscuiAAP Image via AP)

That's unlike the players who arrived into Melbourne on other charters. There have been confirmed positive COVID-19 cases from charter flights originating in Doha, Qatar; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Los Angeles.

That has forced 72 players from those three flights into hard quarantine without an opportunity to leave their hotel rooms to practice.

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Italian tennis player Simone Bolelli, left, and Argentina's Maximo Gonzalez are escorted to their training session in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. The number of players in hard quarantine swelled to 72 ahead of the Australian Open after a fifth positive coronavirus test was returned from the charter flights bringing players, coaches, officials and media to Melbourne for the season-opening tennis major. (Luis AscuiAAP Image via AP)

Japan's Naomi Osaka arrives at Adelaide Airport ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship, Adelaide, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Arriving players will serve a 14-day quarantine period ahead of the first Grand slam tennis tournament that is set to get underway on February 8 in Melbourne. (Morgan SetteAAP Image via AP)