AUCKLAND: Former world number ones Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams headline the Auckland Classic which starts Monday in the build-up to the Australian Open.
They are drawn to potentially clash in the final of the tournament, which features five top-30 players two weeks out from the first Grand Slam of the year.
“I think everybody coming into the year wants to start off well and I’m the same,” said Wozniacki, the tournament top seed who has slipped to number eight in the world since dominating the rankings three years ago.
“I just want to try to win as many matches as I can and get a good start to the year.”
Williams, who has not played since illness forced her out of the China Open three months ago, is back inside the world top 20 for the first time since 2010 and declared herself primed for Auckland where she was the beaten finalist last year.
But in the same side of the draw as the 34-year-old American is Italian Sara Errani, seven years her junior, four places higher in the world rankings and who beat her in the third round of the US Open last year.
Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (ranked 25) and two-time Grand Slam champion and former world number two Svetlana Kuznetsova (27) are also in the field.
Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, now down to 75, is also hoping is hoping to rekindle her career at the tournament she won in 2010 without dropping a set.
The mild New Zealand summer was an ideal lead-in to the heat of Melbourne for the Australian Open, she said.
“Coming from Europe and spending the winter at home, it’s quite nice to have it be not that hot yet.
“It gets us adapting faster to the weather than going from zero to 40 in one hop, so that’s quite nice.”