With the new season finally upon us, the WTA is hosting three tournaments to kick off 2016 in style. With tournaments in Brisbane and Shenzhen also taking place this week, the WTA goes to the island of New Zealand for the ASB Classic in Auckland.
The season opener started back in 1985 for the start of the 1986 season and has been a staple on the calendar ever since.
Previous champions include Marion Bartoli, Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic and last year’s winner Venus Williams.
The ASB Classic
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Prize Money: $226,750
Date: January 4th-10th 2016
The eight seeded players (Ranking)
- Venus Williams (7)
2. Ana Ivanovic (16)
3. Caroline Wozniacki (17)
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova (25)
5. Sloane Stephens (30)
6. Coco Vandeweghe (37)
7. Barbora Strycova (42)
8. Alison Van Uytvanck (44)
All the seeds ranks inside the top 50 with three former grand slam champions and a former world number one set to compete.
First round matches to watch
(4) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Mona Barthel
Kuznetsova had the misfortune of drawing the next highest ranked player outside of the seeds in the opening round, Mona Barthel.
The German is known as an underachiever, being blessed with plenty of talent but has seemingly been unable to translate it into the desired results. Kuznetsova on the other hand is a former grand slam champion but t 30 years of age, can she reproduce that form?
An interesting round one here with two inconsistent players which means it could go either way. Don’t be surprised to see the fourth seed flounder at the first hurdle.Embed from Getty Images
(3) Caroline Wozniacki vs Danka Kovinic
There is an argument that the top players are potentially most vulnerable at the start of the season having not played for a few months. Can Kovinic take advantage and claim the scalp of the former world number one?
Wozniacki did not enjoy the best of 2015’s, finishing outside the top 10. But the former world number one must not be under-estimated. She is still one of the best defenders on tour and difficult to break down.
That is the task ahead of her 21 year old opponent who enjoyed her bests season to date in 2015. The Montenegrin almost broke the top 50 last year, and a win over Wozniacki will give her a huge confidence boost to start the season.
First Quarter: Top seed Venus Williams is back to defend her title after a small resurgence in 2015. The former world number one will kick her season off against Daria Kasatkina in the opening round. If the American predictably makes round two, she will face the winner of Mariana Duque Marino vs Nao Hibino. It would be a huge shock if Venus does not make the quarter finals.
Barbora Strycova’s 2015 did not go as planned as she surrendered her top 30 place to finish just inside the top 50. The Czech however enjoyed the Fed Cup success and will be hoping to translate that form into 2016. The seventh seed opens against a qualifier, but Lucie Hradecka or Julia Goerges could throw a spanner in the works in round two.
Second Quarter: Kuznetsova on the other hand will want to re-kindle old glory in 2016 after a respectable 2015 that saw her finish inside the top 30. The Russian has a difficult round one against Barthel with round two proving much easier for the winner against a semi retired Francesca Schiavone or a qualifier.
Coco Vandeweghe is one of the many Americans in the draw, but she is still searching for her major breakthrough. She made a good run at Wimbledon last year on a surface that suits her game but the courts here are slower, will that impact her effectiveness? It is an all American round one against Irina Falconi with Bethanie Mattek Sands likely for round two- Plenty for the American fans to enjoy.
Third quarter: Wozniacki lost her top 10 status in 2015 but her quest to regain her position amongst the elite starts in Auckland against Kovinic. If there aren’t enough Americans in the draw, Christina McHale is possible for round two against the winner providing she can defeat Misaki Doi.
Talented Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck is name that may be familiar due to her quarter final run at Roland Garros last year. However she has not built on that run, will 2016 be her time to break through? Van Uytvanck faces Alexandra Dulgheru in the opening round. Home favourite Marina Erakovic or Yulia Putintseva await the winner.
Fourth Quarter: Like Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic lost her top 10 status last year, finishing 15th in the world. The Serbian will kick off her 2016 season against a qualifier before meeting Jelena Ostapenko or Joanna Larsson- a good draw for the second seed Sloane Stephens completes the American line up for Auckland as the fifth seed. She only has one title to her name, can she add a second here? Stephens opens against Hercog before meeting the winner of Witthoeft vs Maria. A decent little section here.
Williams def. Goerges
Barthel def. Mattek Sands
Wozniacki def. Erakovic
Ivanovic def. Stephens
Williams def. Barthel
Ivanovic def. WozniackiEmbed from Getty Images
Williams def. Ivanovic
I have gone for the defending champion again. Williams showed superb form at the end of the season and won the title last year for a reason. A good run for Barthel to the semi finals too with Ivanovic being the defeated finalist.Embed from Getty Images