Tennis Sweethearts vie for ASB Classic Crown
Double Australian Open Champion, Victoria Azarenka will make her return to full time tennis via the ASB Classic in January. The former number one has been granted a wildcard for the women’s event adding another touch of class to the impressive women’s line-up.
Vika as she’s known on tour, has won twenty WTA Tour Titles including her two Australian Open Grand Slam trophies (2012,2013) and sits fourth on the all-time leading prize money list (Radwanska is 5th). The Belarusian has won another two grand slams in mixed doubles (2007,2008) and an Olympic gold medal for Belarus.
While Azarenka spent most of this year on the sidelines after giving birth to her first child, Leo in December 2016, tournament officials were determined to get multi Grand Slam winner’s signature for the 2018 event.
“Vika was always someone we wanted to bring to Auckland. Along with Serena, she has been the best player in Women’s tennis over the last six or seven years and is a genuine top two or three player”, said Tournament Director Karl Budge
As a new mother, priorities change but Vika is determined to follow the likes of Kim Clijsters who not only balanced motherhood with her tennis career but won a Grand Slam (US Open 2009) after she returned to the tour.
The Belarusian believes coming to Auckland is the perfect preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year and her return to the tour full time.
“I am very much looking forward to getting back on the court to compete in January and I can’t think of a better place to start the 2018 season than in Auckland. I’ve worked extremely hard with my team over the last few months and continue to do so for the new season, and with my goal in mind to get back to world number one and compete for Grand Slam titles. My expectations remain high as always”.
“I personally haven’t been to Auckland for a very long time and everyone says such wonderful things about the tournament and the city. I am really excited to experience it and be back”.
Auckland will again play host to one of the most loyal players the tournament has seen, 14th ranked Julia Goerges who comes back to ASB Tennis Arena in career best form. The big hitting German is coming off the best season of her career, winning two titles (Moscow, Zhuhai) and reaching three finals (Mallorca, Bucharest, Washington DC). Currently at a career high ranking of 14, Goerges has matured in all aspects of her game and will be one to watch come January having been a semi-finalist and finalist in the last two years.
“Julia has been a long time fan favourite here and plays her best tennis in Auckland. She beat Caroline in the quarter-final’s last year and has a game that really suits our fast courts. She is coming off her best season and will be tough to beat” added Budge.
World number three Caroline Wozniacki will headline the women’s field for the 2018 tournament, the Dane won the biggest title of her career last month at the WTA Tour Final’s in Singapore. She has surged back to World Number three and could regain the Number One world ranking in Melbourne.
"I really wanted to come back. I feel like I have played really well in New Zealand, making the semi-finals and a final. I wanted to come back for the winners’ trophy next year".
Rounding out our top four players are 23rd ranked Czech star Barbora Strycova and former World Number Two Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole knows what it takes to beat the best having won the ASB Classic in 2013, being a Wimbledon finalist and WTA Tour Finals Champion.
Other notable inclusions are Rio Olympic Gold Medallist Monica Puig and 21-year-old Donna Vekic. The Croatian burst on to the scene as a 16-year-old reaching her first WTA Tour final before winning her first title as a 18 year-old. This year she captured her second title in Nottingham defeated home town hero and World Number Ten Johanna Konta in the final.
However all eyes will be on the big three of Wozniacki, Radwanska and Azarenka. They may have grown up together and be close friends off the court, however battle lines will be drawn come the first ball.
Full list of main draw players for the 2018 women’s classic:
1) Caroline Wozniacki (3)
2) Julia Goerges (14)
3) Barbora Strycova (23)
4) Agnieszka Radwanska (28)
5) Mona Barthel (48)
6) Lauren Davis (50)
7) Yulia Putintseva (52)
8) Donna Vekic (55)
9) Monica Puig (58)
10) Varvara Lepchenko (63)
11) Christina McHale (64)
12) Marketa Vondrousova (67)
13) Maia Haddad (71)
14) Kirsten Flipkens (74)
15) Veronica Cepede Royg (75)
16) Alison Van Uytvanck (76)
17) Johanna Larsson (80)
18) Su-Wei Hsieh (82)
19) Madison Brengle (83)
20) Lara Arruabarrena (84)
21) Petra Martic (89)
22) Taylor Townsend (94)
23) Nao Hibino (97)
24) Polona Hercog (101)