Buzarnescu to make Hobart tennis return

Ethan James
Mihaela Buzarnescu will defend her title at the HObart International

Last season's Hobart International runner-up Mihaela Buzarnescu will return to the tennis tournament that sparked her breakthrough year.

The 30-year-old Romanian made her maiden WTA final at the 2018 event before going on to crack the top 20 for the first time in August.

She won a debut title at San Jose in a year that included a grand slam-best fourth-round showing at the French Open.

Buzarnescu will return to Hobart as the highest-ranked player (No.24) at the week-long Australian Open lead-up tournament beginning January 5.

Former Hobart winner Alize Cornet will also again play the event, while one-time world. No 7 Belinda Bencic is set to make her first appearance.

Young Greek Maria Sakkari, who had wins this year over Ashleigh Barty and Venus Williams, is also in a field that features six former top 20 players.

The Hobart International has proven a launching pad for careers in recent times including Garbine Muguruza, who won her first title at Hobart in 2014 and rose to world No.1 three years later.