Tournament 31 Dec 2023

Tennis superstars set to clash in epic start to ASB Classic in Auckland

by ASB Classic
Tennis superstars set to clash in epic start to ASB Classic in Auckland

Two star players with almost 50 WTA titles between them in Caroline Wozniacki and Elina Svitolina have been drawn to meet in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland starting on New Year’s Day.

Svitolina (UKR) drew her own name out as the guest in today’s official draw at the ASB Tennis Arena, as competition got underway in qualifying.

The pair, both returning to tennis after layoffs to raise children, will provide a block-buster for the tournament organisers.

What is more is that 2021 US Open Champion, Emma Raducanu, yet another player on the comeback trail in Auckland this week, is slated to meet the winner of the Wozniacki-Svitolina contest in the second round should the British player overcome a qualifier in the opening round.

ASB Classic tournament director Nicolas Lamperin said it promised a massive showdown to start the women’s competition.

“I was waiting for the last one (Wozniacki), I knew it was coming,” Lamperin said.

“It’s what we’ve been saying from the beginning. With the players we have, we’ll have exciting matches from day one and this is what the tournament is all about. It’s not just about the semis and the final, but a full week of great tennis.”

Wozniacki ended her career in 2020 before giving birth to Olivia and James but decided to make a return after the desire to “get back in shape.” After being surprised at her form in hit-ups, she decided to make a return to the sport in August this year, surprising many to reach the fourth round at the US Open.

She has not played competitively since, but has returned to Auckland for the eighth time as she prepares for the Australian Open.

Svitolina jumped over 1000 spots in the world rankings to No 25 after time out for the birth of daughter Skai.

She has come to Auckland for the first time, along with her husband Gael Monfils, who will play in the ASB Classic men’s event starting on 8 January.

The Ukrainian player is under no illusions about the token she drew.

“It’s going to be a tough one, but I’m really looking forward to the match,” Svitolina said of facing Wozniacki.

“When I found out Caroline was coming back, I wanted to play against her and it’s going to be an exciting one.”

Top seed Coco Gauff has drawn fellow American Clare Liu, who is 90 spots below the defending champion and US Open Champion at the top of the draw.

The New Zealand wildcard entrant Monique Barry is in the middle of the draw and up against Elina Avanesyan who is more than 500 spots above her in the rankings. But it will provide an invaluable experience for the Australian-based kiwi as she looks to improve her world rankings after a first season on the ITF circuit.

She will be the only kiwi alive after Elyse Tse, Valentina Ivanov and Jade Otway all lost but will richer for their experiences.

Twelve players won through the first round of qualifying with a second round on Sunday from which the six winners advance to the tournament proper starting on New Year’s Day.

Caption: Elina Svitolina draws out her own name to meet Caroline Wozniacki in the first round of the ASB Classic, with Emma Raducanu happy to be back in Auckland and playing again after prolonged injuries. (Credit: Tim Marshall)