Russian pair bolster ASB Classic draw
Two former world No 2 players have bolstered the field for next year's ASB Classic.
Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova are the star additions to the draw that already includes current world No 4 Agnieszka Radwanska.
Injuries have seen both Zvonareva and Kuznetsova drop down the rankings this year to No 96 and No 72 respectively, but both have been Grand Slam finalists in recent years.
The Russian pair, who won the doubles title at this year's Australian Open, are also joined by the sixth top 30 player to be confirmed, Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova.
"The tournament promises to be a great contest between the young blood of Radwanska, Goerges and Shvedova against the wise heads of Zvonareva and Kuznetsova," said tournament director Karl Budge. "And the two former champions [Wickmayer and Zheng] will keep them all honest."
Zvonareva, with 12 career titles under her belt, was ranked at No 2 in 2010 when she was a finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open. This time last year she was playing in the season-ending championships for the world's top eight players.
Despite making the third rounds at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics this year, Zvonareva's season has been affected by injuries. The 28-year-old has a good record in Auckland being a finalist in 2006 and 2007.
Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam winner - at the US Open in 2004 and Roland Garros in 2009 - reached the semi-finals in Auckland this year. She went through to the fourth round at Roland Garros in May but struggled with a knee injury for the latter part of the year.
Defending champion and world No 26 Zheng Jie confirmed at the weekend that she will be returning. This means the top six players all come from the world top 30 - Poland's Radwanska at No 4, Germany's Julia Goerges at No 18, 2010 champion Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer at No 23, China's Zheng, Romania's Sorana Cirstea at No 27 and Shvedova at No 29.
Shvedova made headlines this year when she became the first woman in the open era to win a golden set - winning all 24 points in a single set - in the first set of her win over world No 7 Sara Errani at Wimbledon.
She went to a career high 25 in the world last month after making the French Open quarter-finals and the fourth round at Wimbledon. The former Wimbledon and US Open doubles champion has made one appearance in Auckland in 2006.
The field also features Kiwi No 1 Marina Erakovic, and up and comers Heather Watson (UK) and Christina McHale (USA), who is ranked just outside the top 30 at 33 in the world.
The tournament precedes the men's Heineken Open and runs from December 31 to January 5.