Latest 17 Nov 2012

Defending champion to return for 2013 ASB Classic

Defending champion to return for 2013 ASB Classic

ASB Classic champion and world no. 26 Zheng Jie has confirmed she is returning to Auckland to defend her title.

The Chinese 29-year-old who beat Italy’s Flavia Pennetta in this year’s final, will return for her second appearance at the ASB Tennis Arena hoping to keep her perfect record here intact.

The news means that both Auckland tournaments will have their defending champions returning with three-time Heineken Open winner David Ferrer also back for another tilt at the men’s title.

New ASB Classic Tournament Director Karl Budge is delighted that Zheng has chosen to return to Auckland rather than playing in her home tournament in Shenzhen.

“There were some concerns in tennis circles that the new US$500,000 Shenzhen tournament would have an impact on our ASB Classic field but Zheng’s return lessens any worries those people may have had.

“The top players know that playing in New Zealand and Australia is the ideal preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year – the Australian Open.”

Zheng’s victory in Auckland was her fourth tour title and afterwards she went on to the fourth round at the Australian Open. She has 14 WTA doubles titles including two Grand Slams at the Australia Open and Wimbledon in 2006.

Zheng knocked over three of the top seeds - Monica Niculescu (8), Svetlana Kuznetsova (3) and Pennetta (4) - to claim this year’s ASB Classic crown but she’ll have a tougher time this year with world no. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska the tournament’s top billing.

The announcement of Zheng means there are now five players in the top 30 confirmed for the ASB Classic - Poland’s Radwanska (no. 4), Germany’s Julia Goerges (no. 18), 2010 champion Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer (no. 23), Zheng and Romania’s Sorana Cirstea (no.27).

Britain’s Heather Watson, Kiwi Marina Erakovic’s doubles partner and ranked at 49 in the world, is also coming.

The full field of 24 players will be announced on Wednesday 21 November.

The 2013 ASB Classic runs from 31 December this year to 5 January 2013. Tickets are on sale from Ticketek.

The start time for each day’s play has been moved an hour earlier to midday. All centre court games for the ASB Classic will be screened live on SKY TV.