Five-time Wimbledon singles champion Venus Williams will begin her 2012 tennis season at the ASB Classic in Auckland in January.
Tournament organizers said on Thursday that the 31-year-old Williams had been given a wild card to play the outdoor hardcourt event which runs from Jan. 2-7. Williams has traditionally begun her Australian Open preparations at a tournament in Hong Kong which she has won four times since 1999.
Williams' ranking has dropped to 101 due to illness and injury last year. She was forced to pull out of the US Open because of an immune system disease called Sjogren's syndrome which can cause fatigue and joint pain.