Outstanding Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard has emerged as the leading contender to gain the last wildcard into New Zealand's international women's tennis tournament.
ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge hopes to make his decision today on a wildcard that unexpectedly became available through the withdrawal of Russia's former world No 2 Vera Zvonareva because of a shoulder injury.
It looks to be a straight choice between young an old, with 18-year-old Bouchard favoured over 2011 Auckland champion Greta Arn (Hungary) because she offers more to the future of the event.
Budge is trying to agree terms with Bouchard's management and is only likely to give a free ride into next week's US$220,000 tournament if there is a commitment to return.
"Eugenie has just come into the seniors and she is probably one of the most exciting talents we have got in the game," Budge said.
"I'm really keen to see her go well, so if I can agree to terms with her agent, it's looking pretty likely that she will get one (wildcard).
Budge admitted there was a tug of emotion for Arn, with the 33-year-old a regular visitor here. Her ranking has blown out to 116 through illness and injury.
But Budge made it clear he had to take sentiments out of what was essentially a business equation in his first year in the job.
"I've got to look at the future and the plans of the tournament," Budge said.
"With all respect to Greta, she is probably coming towards the twilight of her career. At the opposite end you have got probably the most promising talent that we have got. If we can build a relationship with Eugenie and get some confirmation that she will come back in the future, then I think that's an investment worth taking a punt on."
Bouchard has quickly risen to 147 in the world singles rankings. She has won six ITF singles titles and performed credibly in the handful of WTA tournaments she managed to get into this year. This included a quarter-final run in Washington after being granted a wildcard there.
Qualifying will be played over the weekend with the main draw starting on Monday.
- Fairfax Media