Strongest ever field assembled for men's ASB Classic
Organisers of the ASB Classic have announced the strongest line-up in the event’s history with nine players ranked inside the World’s Top 30 confirmed and a full field cut off of just 56.
Top 20 players Kevin Anderson (12) and Benoit Paire (19) join the already announced Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10) and John Isner (11) meaning the first four seeds all be ranked inside the World’s Top 20.
The depth of talent on show in Auckland will see one of the fiercest draws yet. Anderson returns after his semi-final appearance in 2015 off the back of a career best year. The giant South African claimed his third ATP title at the Winston-Salem Open and made two further finals at the Aegon Championships (losing to Andy Murray) and Memphis Open (losing to Kei Nishikori). He shone in Grand Slams, narrowly going down to World Number One Novak Djokovic in five sets in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon before getting one back over Murray (3) to advance to the Quarter Final’s of the US Open, his second top ten scalp of the year (Stanislas Wawrinka in London being the other).
Benoit Paire (19) is the fourth Top 20 player on show. The flamboyant Frenchmen has had a resurgence in 2015 claiming his first career title in Sweden and was awarded ATP Comeback Player after rising 99 spots in the world rankings. The highlight of the year came at the US Open where he knocked out defending finalist and World Number Five Nishikori in the opening round. He followed this up again beating the Japanese superstar at the Tokyo 500 event in the semi-finals before going down to Wawrinka in the final.
28-year-old Italian Fabio Fognini (21) brings further flair to the field in his first appearance back in Auckland since 2011. The partner of US Open Women’s Champion Flavia Pennetta, who will join Fognini in Auckland, has captured three ATP singles titles and three in doubles. However, it has been his total dominance of Rafael Nadal that has turned heads in 2015 beating the Spaniard three times including the US Open.
Croatian star Ivo Karlovic (23) at the ripe age of 36 will make his first Auckland appearance, one of four new comers (alongside Vasek Pospisil, Aljaz Bedene and Victor Estrella Burgos). Karlovic has six ATP titles, including Delray Beach in 2015. The tallest ATP Tour player ranked inside the top 100, boasts the record for most ever aces (10,442) on Tour and 1447 in 2015 alone.
Becoming a regular in Auckland, Spain’s Roberto Bautista-Agut (25) returns on the back of a year that garnered two finals (Valencia and Moscow) and semi-finals in Umag and Munich.
Rounding out the top eight seeds, American Jack Sock (26) will be back after his first visit to Auckland in 2014 as a wildcard. The up and coming American shot up the rankings in 2015 to a career high 25, a feat even more impressive given he was injured until Indian Wells in March. At 22, he became the youngest American to reach the round of 16 at the French Open since Pete Sampras in 1993 before claiming his first ATP title in Houston.
2015 Champion Jiri Vesely (41) will be back to defend his title. The promising Czech backed up his Auckland performance with another finals appearance in Bucharest and a semi-final appearance in Casablanca.
“It is the strongest cut we have ever had. All players ranked inside the top 56 in the world is amazing and there is some real star power amongst it. We have numbers 10, 11 and 12 in the world, some exciting new talent and some big hitters. It is going to be a tough week,” said Tournament Director Karl Budge.
Four time Auckland Champion David Ferrer (7) has asked organisers to hold him a wildcard. Ferrer has committed to play in Doha the week prior to the ASB Classic. However, an early loss in Doha could open the door for the Spaniard to have another crack at becoming the outright most successful ever champion in Auckland.
“If David goes deep in Doha understandably he will go straight to Melbourne. However, if he does ask for that wildcard it would mean our top four seeds would be ranked inside the world’s top 12 players. An unbelievable result and icing on the cake.” said Budge.
"The ASB Classic continues to go from strength to strength in terms of its ability to attract the world's top tennis players to New Zealand," says Roger Beaumont, ASB's Executive General Manager for Marketing & Communications. "Local fans now have even more to look forward to with an enlarged tournament showcasing some of the biggest names in world tennis over two weeks".
The men’s week of the ASB Classic begins on January 10th, 2016 at the ASB Tennis Arena in Auckland. The women’s tournament gets underway the week prior starting on January 4th.
Full list of seeded men’s players for the ASB Classic 2016:
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10)
John Isner (11)
Kevin Anderson (12)
Benoit Paire (19)
Fabio Fognini (21)
Ivo Karlovic (23)
Roberto Bautista Agut (25)
Jack Sock (26)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (27)
Steve Johnson (32)
Joao Sousa (33)
Philipp Kohlschreiber (34)
Vasek Pospisil (39)
Jiri Vesely (41)
Aljaz Bedene (45)
Donald Young (48)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (54)
Lukas Rosol (55)
Victor Estrella Burgos (56)