ASB Classic Women's Final Preview
She was number one in the world in junior rankings and Budge saw potential. He made her a deal that if he gave her a wildcard into the ASB Classic, she would have to return for the next three years. The punt paid off as Konjuh climbed through the rankings, meeting expectations and potential, to now be in the final of the tournament that gave her her first big break. This is the second WTA final Konjuh has reached, having won in Nottingham in 2015.
As one of just six teenagers in the top 100, she is part of the Next Generation program on the WTA Tour. The Croatian turned 19 on the 27th of December and is the youngest player in the top 50. She was yet to be born when Venus Williams made her French Open debut in 1997.
Her opponent Lauren Davis is ranked 61 in the world and has never won a WTA singles title. She has reached two WTA finals before, both in 2016, in Washington DC and Quebec City. She is familiar to Auckland fans having played the tournament five times, with her best result coming in 2015 when she reached the semi-finals. Davis is one of the smallest players on tour as just 5’2” and is renowned for her consistency and courage.
Konjuh and Davis have played only once before on the Tour and it was here in Auckland in 2014. It was Konjuh’s first WTA tournament and she had just played her first ever match as a professional tennis player. Ranked 259 in the world, she drew the top seed, world no. 15 Roberta Vinci. Against all odds she produced the biggest upset of the 2014 tournament beating Vinci 3-6 6-4 6-2. The teenager was instantly on the map amongst New Zealand tennis fans and in global tennis. However, the next match was Konjuh’s undoing. It was the round of 16 and she faced Lauren Davis. The steady American ground her down beating her 2-6 6-2 6-2. It was the only time the two have played. They will face off, not before 3pm on Saturday.
As the women’s tournament comes to a close, the men’s tournament ramps up. Qualifying begins on Saturday, which features two New Zealanders in Rubin Statham and Finn Tearney, Kiwi-turned-Brit Cameron Norrie and former top 20 player Jerzy Janowicz.
Tournament Director Karl Budge gave Statham and Tearney wildcards for qualifying, while Cameron Norrie climbed in on a ranking of 276. Janowicz is ranked 280 in the world after a long layoff due to a knee injury. Just three years ago the 26-year-old was ranked 14 in the world. The heavy hitter will be one to watch as he makes a bid back toward the top of men’s tennis.
Qualifying matches start at 12pm on Court 2 and Grandstand. Fans have the opportunity to watch with the purchase of a $20 ground pass.