Canberra, Oct 10: The 2018 Australian Open has been officially launched with the world's top tennis players committed to playing in the tournament. Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley on Tuesday announced that the top 100 men's and women's players would compete at the first Grand Slam of the year despite many having suffered injuries in 2017, reports Xinhua news agency. "I've been in contact with all the top players and am pleased to announce we'll have the full top 100 men and women returning to the Australian Open in January," Tiley said at the launch on Tuesday. "For 2018 I think we can expect to see the gap between the established players and the next generation start to close. The Australian Open has a history of breakthrough performances and crowning new champions, so I wouldn't rule out a changing of the guard," he added. Tiley also announced a series of new initiatives, including making tickets available to Chinese fans via leading travel and tourism providers for the first time. The tournament will mark the Grand Slam return of Serena Williams, who missed much of the 2017 season while pregnant. Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title, one short of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24, at the 2017 Australian Open. "Serena is such a remarkable athlete there's now almost an expectation she'll reach the final, as though it's a forgone conclusion," Tiley said. "The majors have been split between four different women this year and I think the field is really open. It's exciting to think Serena could return to defend her title after motherhood, and it's also exciting to speculate on who can break through the pack to win," Tiley added. The 2018 Australian Open, the 30th Australian Open to be held in Melbourne, will be the richest in the tournament's history with the total prize pool increased 10 percent to 42 million U.S. dollars. The winners of the men's and women's singles tournaments will walk away with $3.1 million.