In announcing a prize money increase at the 2018 Australian Open, tournament director Craig Tiley said that all of the Top 100 men and women are expected to be there. That includes some players who have been out of competition for months, or longer. 

Here's five of the biggest names expected to return to action in Melbourne.

1

Serena Williams

The Australian Open was the last event of 2017 for the defending champion. The new mom is planning on going for her eighth title in Australia, and if this recent photo is any indication, she's already in Grand Slam mode.

2

Novak Djokovic

Someone whose probably chomping at the bit right now is the six-time champion. From 2007 to 2016, the Serb reached the fourth round or better at the tournament. That streak came to an end this year when he was shocked in the second round by Denis Istomin. How Djokovic's elbow holds up will be key in determining how things go for him. The footwork is still there.

Morning workouts by the river..   Love being here!! #Belgrade

A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on

3

Andy Murray

Like his chief rival Djokovic, Murray was also forced to end his season early in 2017. Also, like Djokovic, the five-time finalist at the tournament made a premature exit this year, going down to Mischa Zverev. He's always ready and willing to battle Down Under, as evidenced by his five-set win over Milos Raonic in the 2016 semifinals. 

4

Maria Sharapova

It was at the 2016 Australian Open where the 2008 champion's career was turned upside down after she tested positive for a banned substance. In the midst of her comeback, she's managed to get her ranking back high enough to avoid any debate about being awarded a main draw wild card.

5

Stan Wawrinka

The Swiss started the Slam-winning side of his career at the 2014 Australian Open. Shortly after reaching the final of the French Open this year, a knee injury sat him to the sidelines. He appears to be making incremental steps toward a return, and if healthy, could pose a threat in Australia next year. 

Follow Van on Twitter: @Van_Sias