Tennis Auckland are chasing Rafael Nadal for next year's Heineken Open.
Normally players like Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray wouldn't consider playing in Auckland but Nadal's situation means that Auckland could be on his radar.
The former world No 1 hasn't played since he lost in the second round of Wimbledon in June as he has battled with a knee injury.
Last week Nadal started hitting a ball in time and is on schedule to be ready for the Australian Open, starting January 14.
But Nadal will need to get some game time under his belt before then and Heineken Open tournament director Karl Budge hopes he can lure him to Auckland.
Nadal has twice played at the Heineken Open, in 2004 and 2005. In his first visit he made it to the final before losing to Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty 6-4 2-6 5-7, while a year later he was forced to withdraw from his match, again against Hrbaty, with an injury.
Organisers of the exhibition event in Kooyong, Victoria, the same week as the Heineken Open are also after Nadal, but he may decide that it would be better for him to play in an ATP tournament and one where there won't be as much international media interest.
He would also be with his fellow Spaniard David Ferrer and probably Nicolas Almagro.
Budge has been in regular contact with Nadal's agent recently.
"He is absolutely on our radar," Budge said.
"I would dearly like to see him in Auckland and it's a case of watch this space at the moment.
"It is the same with Roger Federer as well at the moment," Budge added.
"He is playing in six exhibition tournaments and then nothing on the other side of Christmas, so I'm wondering if all of a sudden if he wants some match time.
"As it stands there is only one wildcard left for Kooyong, so if they both decide they want to play, one of them will miss out on that and we'll certainly keep on them."
Meanwhile 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 beat Italy's Flavia Pennetta in this year's final.
The news means that both Auckland tournaments will have their defending champions returning with three-time Heineken Open winner Ferrer also back.
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."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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