Unprecedented Field for ASB Classic with Four Former World Number Ones
The ASB Classic can reveal the strongest field in the tournaments history with four former world number ones included in the women’s draw. It can now be confirmed that tour glamour girls Caroline Wozniacki (19) and Ana Ivanovic (63) will join the sister act of Serena (2) and Venus Williams (17).
There are just 22 women who have held the title of world number one in the history of the WTA tour. Only six of these players are currently competing, with four of them choosing to play Auckland over rival tournaments Brisbane and Shenzhen. Between them, they have won 30 Grand Slams, 160 WTA titles and spent 399 weeks or nearly 8 years at world number one.
“This is unchartered territory for a sporting event in New Zealand. Any one of these four players could headline the tournament on their own. They are the most marketable female athletes in the world. True global superstars, known simply by their first names on every continent. Auckland is going to be the centre of the sporting world come the first week of January”, said Tournament Director, Karl Budge.
The headline act as already announced is this era’s predominant female player Serena Williams. She has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles – a record she shares with Steffi Graf. The 35-year-old American is the highest paid female athlete in the world, was named ‘Sports Woman of the Year’ at the Laureus Sports Awards for the third time in 2016 and included in Time ‘100 Most Influential People’. Her older sister Venus Williams is back for the third time after reaching the finals in 2013 and winning the tournament in 2015. The 36-year-old has won seven Grand Slam titles.
In a sign of how well respected the ASB Classic is amongst tennis’ elite, Auckland will be the first time the Williams sisters have played at the same International level event since 1998. Caroline Wozniacki first came to Auckland in 2009 as a 19-year-old. She reached world number one a year later and has now amassed 25 WTA titles. The Dane is in threatening form with a strong end to 2016. She lost in the final of this year’s US Open to world number one Angelique Kerber. She followed that with WTA titles in Tokyo and Hong Kong. Wozniacki was forced off court in October with a foot injury and has been recovering at Richard Branson’s Necker Island with Yankee’s legend Derek Jeter’s wife Hannah.
Former ASB Classic winner Ana Ivanovic is one of tennis' most popular stars. In her career, she has amassed 15 WTA singles titles and played in every Grand Slam for the last 12
years. She won the 2008 French Open and the ASB Classic in 2014.
"I am very excited to start my 2017 season in Auckland. ASB Classic is one of my favourite tournaments on the tour and I couldn't imagine a better place to kick start the new season in New Zealand again,” said Ivanovic.
The glamorous Serb is a strong selling point for the tournament where she is a familiar face. This will be her third appearance. She won the tournament in 2014, defeating Venus Williams in the final.
The 29-year-old said, “I have very fond memories of winning the title in Auckland 2014 and I am determined to make my mark again in 2017. With its superb facilities, great organisation and strong players field, Auckland is definitely the tournament that I want to be part of." Ivanovic has had a frustrating 2016 with a recurring wrist injury and made the decision in September to finish her season early to be fully fit for 2017. Auckland will be her comeback tournament. She says the tournament is important for her confidence and to get match experience before the Australian Open in the second half of January.
On top of these household names, defending champion Sloane Stephens is a late addition to the draw. The 23-year-old American beat Wozniacki in this year’s ASB Classic semi-final before defeating Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-2. The rising star went on to win another two WTA titles in 2016 in Acapulco and Charleston, including a win over world number one Angelique Kerber. She’s a threat to the tournament’s big four as she has never lost to Venus Williams and has scored wins over Serena Williams, Ivanovic and Wozniacki.
Other notable names include 2016 finalist Julia Goerges (54), former champion Yanina Wickmayer (51) and Czech Fed Cup winner Lucie Safarova (62). 29-year-old Safarova was a finalist at the French Open in 2015 and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2014. She finished 2015 firmly ranked inside the world’s top ten players before illness limited her schedule in 2016. Wickmayer has played at the ASB Classic seven times, reaching the finals in 2011 and 2013 and winning the tournament in 2010. She has been as high as 12 in the world.
The rest of the field includes top 30 players Barbora Strycova (20), Kiki Bertens (22) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (27). ASB Classic regular Strycova finished 2016 at world number 20, her highest ever ranking. Bertens had a great year also reaching her career high ranking of 21 after winning the Nürnberg WTA title and the semi-finals of the French Open.
Pavlyuchenkova lost in the quarter-finals of this year’s Wimbledon to Serena Williams and ends the year ranked 27. She played in the Russian Olympic team in Rio and won four Junior Grand Slam titles.
The ASB Classic is focused on investing in the next generation of female tennis players and has worked to sign rising teenagers Jelena Ostapenko (43), Naomi Osaka (47) and Ana Konjuh (48). The three teenagers are all ranked in the world’s top 50. Osaka won the 2016 WTA Newcomer of the Year award, while Konjuh is the best 18-year-old in the world. Ostapenko, Osaka and Konjuh were yet to be born when Venus Williams made her French Open debut in 1997.
The ASB Classic will span two weeks; the women's tournament commencing on January 2nd to 7th followed by the men’s tournament from January 9th to 14th. Tickets are available for purchase through Ticketek.
The full men’s line-up will be announced on Wednesday 30 November at 10am.