WTA Newcomer of the Year joins fellow future stars in Auckland
Continuing the tradition of unearthing the next wave of future stars, the ASB Classic has today announced three of the games brightest talents will play in Auckland in 2017.
Jelena Ostapenko (19), Naomi Osaka (19) and Ana Konjuh (18) were not born when Venus Williams made her French Open debut in 1997. Now the three teenagers will head to Auckland touted as the future of women’s tennis.
A new face to the ASB Classic, Naomi Osaka is considered the biggest talent on the WTA Tour. Off the back of a breakthrough year in 2016, Osaka was named Newcomer of the Year at the recent WTA Tour Awards following in the footsteps of previous winners Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters.
It has been an impressive 12 months for the Japanese player rising more than 150 spots up the WTA rankings and reaching a career high number 40 last month. She became the first local player since 1995 to make the final of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo beating world no. 5 Dominika Cibulkova and world no. 14 Elina Svitolina en route to the final where she faced Caroline Wozniacki.
However it has been Grand Slams where the young teen has really impressed reaching the third round at the three Grand Slams she played in 2016 (Australian Open, French Open and US Open).
The youngster has caught the eye of one of her idols, Serena Williams. “She’s really young and really aggressive. She’s a talented player. Very aggressive,” said Williams.
ASB Classic Tournament Director, Karl Budge agrees. “Osaka is going to be special. We chased Naomi very hard to make sure she started her year in Auckland and suspect she will be headlining the ASB Classic and the WTA in general for many years to come.”
Osaka herself is excited to be coming to Auckland for the first time. “I am very grateful to Karl and the Auckland tournament for the opportunity. I’ve heard amazing reports from my fellow pros and can’t wait to experience the fans and the culture in New Zealand.”
19-year-old Jelena Ostapenko returns to the ASB Classic after reaching a career high ranking of 34 in June. The Latvian had notable wins through the middle of the year against Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova (for the second time in the season) however it was Doha that she really signalled her arrival at the highest level. The fiery teen beat three current or former top ten players (Kuznetsova, Kvitova and Petkovic) on her way to her first tour level final.
Ana Konjuh is no stranger to the ASB Tennis Arena and will make her third appearance in January. The youngest player in the world’s top 50, Konjuh is living up to the promise organisers first saw in her when signed to the ASB Classic as a 15-year-old. Already touted as a future top five player, the Croatian became the youngest player to win a WTA singles title in a decade when she captured the Eastbourne trophy last year. The former Junior World Number One and two time Junior Grand Slam winner has transitioned well to the professional ranks and reached the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time 2016 making the quarter final and beating world no. four Agnieszka Radwanska at the US Open.
“We are thrilled to be bringing the next wave of future stars to the ASB Classic. We have had the likes of Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard, Rio gold medalist Monica Puig and current top ten player Garbine Muguruza in recent years. I am genuinely excited about these three players and believe they could be the best youngsters we have had yet,” said Budge.
The full women’s line-up will be announced on Wednesday 23 November at 10am with the men’s field a week later.
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. You can purchase tickets either online, over the phone on (0800 842 538) or in person at one of the agencies listed on the event website.